Ohmae's Key success factors LO11744

Myers, Kent (myers@carsoninc.com)
Wed, 8 Jan 1997 13:29:15 -0500

Replying to LO11706 --

You say that key success factors, in the case of Southwest, would be those
few factors that make Southwest different from others. That's not how
Rockart used the concept, although that's perhaps how it has mutated in

Porter, in the article I mentioned, says that Southwest succeeds by having
a distinctive design and acting consistently to execute that design, which
is 'fit'. His point is that Southwest doesn't pick aspects of general
performance and do them well -- it does one design well. If one were to
insist that Southwest is working from key factors, then one of the factors
must be low cost, which Southwest is known for. But it is clear that
Southwest is failing to do all it can on that factor. It could be packing
the planes more, thinning out maintenance, and adding hubs. That would
only happen if Southwest ignored context and (as Porter would say)

Efficiency improvements (which Porter inexplicably calls operational
effectiveness) won't put you ahead unless you and all your competitors are
poorly run. When everybody is running a tight ship, you need a
differentiating strategy/design. Assuming general efficiency in the
industry, a successful design requires tradeoffs. By deciding to not use
hubs, avoid primary fields, not offer food, and using only one kind of
plane, Southwest sacrifices an ability to go everywhere, vary plane size,
and use other features that are real advantages in different designs.
Porter explains how Continental tried to imitate Southwest on some routes
and to integrate that design with their prior design, with disasterous

Keys and operational efffectiveness have their place in support of a
coherent design, but if they are allowed to override fit (internal balance
and match to environment), then you have a case of runaway, context-free
good (and as Aristotle says there can always be too much of any good).

While I concede that key thinking is useful in support of design, I'll
still claim that it is not systems thinking, and that if it is used in
place of strategy on strategic problems, that it is the opposite of
systems thinking. Systems thinking is required to put key thinking in its
place, in fact to give it a place.

Kent Myers myersk@us.net
Alexandria, Virginia


"Myers, Kent" <myers@carsoninc.com>

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