Coffee & Core Competencies
8/18/08 / Geoff Urland
What is interesting about the list of tactics is that almost half are motivated by the same strategic focus: returning Starbucks to it’s “core business” of selling coffee (rather than music, books, or smelly breakfast sandwiches).
Helping organizations understand their core competencies is something we have faced recently on several of our strategic planning projects. This can be surprisingly difficult, especially for established organizations who have been operating the same programs under that same assumptions for a while. There is an important, but often subtle, difference between “what we are doing,” “what we feel we should be doing,” and “what we’re good at.” The only thing that matters for core competencies is the last one.
Identifying core competencies is a vital part of developing a viable strategy; if you have no idea what you organization does well, you really have no idea what direction your organization should be moving. And understanding competencies is the first step to figuring out your sweet spot–the intersection of what you do well, what your customers/constituents want, and what your competitors do not do.
What is especially striking is just how many different things that Starbucks is trying out in order to get back to their core. Even for large corporations is it not always obvious to them what they do well and how to get back to doing it!
For those that want more reading on the importance of competencies in finding the strategic sweet spot, please refer to this recent Harvard Business Review article (available for purchase at their website).