Jack’s Big Aha!

It’s never a bad idea to look at strategic principles through the lens of proven business leaders such as Jack Welch. Jack started at GE as a chemical engineer in 1960 and by 1980 he was promoted to CEO where he proceeded to grow the company from $26B to $130B with a market value of $410B. To learn more about Jack’s story, feel free to read more detail of his accomplishments here.

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In his book Winning Jack outlines three key success factors when crafting company strategy:

  1. Come up with a “big aha” for your business- a broad idea that’s smart, realistic, and able to deliver a sustainable competitive       advantage.
  2. Put the right people in the right jobs to drive the “big aha” forward.
  3. Relentlessly seek out best practices to achieve your “big aha” from inside and outside your company then adapt them, and continually improve them.

The “big aha” is the focal point of a company strategy, and every company regardless of size, benefits from a clear understanding of how they compete in the marketplace. However, company’s often think their “big aha” has to be a transformational strategy that radically changes how business is conducted giving them an overwhelming competitive advantage. An obvious example of a transformational strategy outside of staffing is the advent of MP3 distribution. MP3 distribution continues to challenge how music is created, marketed, distributed, and sold. MP3 distribution has revolutionized multiple industries; however, those types of opportunities are few and far between.

While developing cutting edge business strategies is compelling it’s important to keep in mind that the “big aha” is not big because it’s revolutionary, but because it is a moment of simple clarity of what the company needs to do to ensure sustainable competitive advantage. This means capturing the company’s strategy to where it can be clearly articulated and executed. For staffing companies, developing a well grounded strategy might not be as sexy as revolutionizing the marketplace, but it’s a lot more practical.

So how does a leader achieve the clarity of the “big aha”. Well, I would caution leaders on relying solely on spontaneous inspiration. Instead, combine inspiration with the discipline of research and planning. Pull in key members of your team and ask the tough and revealing questions about the long term viability of your business. A SWOT analysis can go a long way to better understanding the capabilities and vulnerabilities of your company and how best to take those into account when developing a long range plan.

By taking the time to understand the current state of your organization, you have made the first step to defining a “big aha” that can be smart, realistic and sustainable. Whether that “big aha” is revealed to you over a bowl of cereal or in a conference room is irrelevant, the important thing is that it is well researched and thought through.

Is your company strategy clear? Does it inspire understanding and confidence in your team? If not spend some time with your team and ask the tough questions. The results may open up new approaches you never considered.

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