Clarifying Core Competencies and Competitive Advantages
Clarifying Core Competencies and Competitive Advantages
Over the course of its 65-year history, Westinghouse Lighting has transitioned from a manufacturing and packaging company to a marketing and distribution company. The company enjoyed continual success and growth through the 1970s and 1980s, when the DIY trend was booming. “At that time, we were in the right place at the right time,” notes Westinghouse Lighting President and CEO Ray Angelo. “We were selling through the major home centers and hardware retailers. Our products fit the market, our prices were competitive, demand was high and we were picking up market share
By the mid 1990s, times had changed as independent retailers were replaced by Home Depot, Lowes and other national chains. Competition from global importers grew, and sales declined. According to Angelo, for the next 15 years, the company “muddled through.” Changes were implemented and by 2009, the company was at a glass half empty, half full stage. “Our global business was doing well, and the business overall had stabilized. We had strengthened our management team and were restructuring our sales and marketing culture. But, we weren’t driving sustainable growth.”
Angelo reached out to DVIRC for assistance in developing a strategic plan, and for support in guiding the plan through implementation.
DVIRC Business Solutions Advisor Harold Floyd brought the Westinghouse Lighting senior management team together to begin the process of envisioning the future, creating a strategic plan, setting goals and developing action plans.
With input from the management team, Floyd facilitated an analysis of the company’s current state, including a SWOT analysis – a review of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The discussions clarified Westinghouse Lighting’s core competencies and competitive advantages, as well as areas where improvement was necessary to reach strategic objectives.
Based on the analysis, gaps were identified. Another set of goals and action plans to address the gaps were put in place.
In the process of developing the strategic plan, short-term business issues were identified that needed to be addressed. According to Angelo, “DVIRC provided the framework for some tough discussions on the true state of our business. This helped us to create a realistic and achievable short-term plan for dealing with our immediate challenges.”
While the short-term actions temporarily detoured the strategic planning process, they provided Westinghouse Lighting with a stronger foundation for the long-term strategy. When the company was ready to implement their strategic plan, four initial projects were chosen, and project managers/leaders were assigned. The projects included:
A Performance Management Plan was implemented designed to improve employee performance and better align performance with company goals. A formal employee review process was created and DVIRC trained Westinghouse Lighting’s managers to implement the process. Managers were trained to create employee development plans, improve performance feedback, and help employees understand their role in the company’s success. Role playing was an integral part of the training, as managers learned how to have meaningful – and sometimes difficult — discussions with employees.
DVIRC also helped Westinghouse Lighting managers improve basic skills, through training in Microsoft Outlook, Effective Meetings and Time Management.
Westinghouse Lighting’s business system was operating through an old VAX mainframe. While the need to modernize had long been recognized, previous efforts stalled due to communications issues between departments. The action plan facilitated by DVIRC focused on bringing people on board early in the process, and helped improve linkages and coordination between departments as the conversion progressed.
DVIRC helped Westinghouse Lighting create and implement a more proactive and effective budgeting process.
Westinghouse Lighting offers more than 2000 products, and must provide product specifications, data, images and other information to retailers marketing these products. Previously, that information was stored in a number of individual Excel files. Westinghouse Lighting Senior Director of Marketing Kathleen Katz was leading an effort to create a centralized data base of all product information that would feed into multiple publishing tools for easy access by retailers.
As the project progressed, the DVIRC process facilitated discussions of elements that affected other departments, and helped identify those that needed to taken out of the project and handled separately. This prevented the content development project from getting bogged down in departmental issues.
Westinghouse Lighting continues to work towards the goals established in its strategic plan. The company has enhanced its ability to develop action plans that are easy to track and follow, and to implement and self-correct the plans when necessary. “With the help provided by DVIRC, I feel more confident in our ability to follow through on the implementation of major initiatives,” notes Angelo.
Positive results achieved since 2009 include:
Communication among managers and employees has improved significantly. The Performance Management initiative has resulted in a consistent and organized process for reviewing employees and encouraging a stronger focus on goal achievement. Employees have been eager to hear where they can improve. They’re enthusiastic about being acknowledged for what’s working well, and better understand their role in contributing to Westinghouse Lighting’s success.
In May, 2011, the company’s old VAX business system will be converted to a Microsoft system, a major step forward for the company. An important achievement in both IT implementation and employee teamwork, the changeover is planned for Memorial Day weekend. “Employees responsible for the project are all onboard to give up a weekend of family and friends to assure that the conversion goes well,” notes Angelo. “That says a lot about ownership, and their commitment to seeing this project through.”
Countless manhours have been saved related to fulfilling customer requests for information. Printed catalogs have been developed presenting all product information in a clear format. A new website will be launched in May which provides retailers with all product details, specifications and photos in downloadable formats.
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