Magazine article Management Today

What Competition Means to You

Magazine article Management Today

What Competition Means to You

Article excerpt

The very words competitiveness agenda will mean different things to different people. But for all of us training and skills development must be priorities

Ask an economist, an industrialist and a politician to discuss the competitiveness of a company or country, and you will get three very different perspectives.

They will rapidly discover how differently each of them, from their varied but equally valid perspectives, view this most contentious subject.

The economist would tend to concentrate on matters like micro-economic flexibility and macro-economic stability. And most modern economists would echo the UK's experience over the past 20 years, stressing the role of competition policy and deregulation.

The politicians, ever mindful of the roles of government as regulator, purchaser, public service provider and collector of taxes, would make priorities of education, research and development and government investment in infrastructure.

The industrialist, ever close to the day-to-day commercial realities, would focus on the cost of and returns on money and other elements of the mix of resources that affect the abilities of companies to increase shareholder value.

I would expect, however, all three to come up with a reasonably wide-ranging list of factors that influence long-run competitiveness. The relative importance they each attach to specific factors would reflect their particular experience as well, as the special circumstances of the subject they chose to analyse.

The subject tends to arouse greatest interest whenever a body of sufficient repute publishes its latest league table or index purporting to show how the nation's competitive position has worsened or improved. At this point, media-friendly economists, industrialists and politicians are placed in front of cameras to interpret and propose responses to the latest findings.

It was at the Department of Trade and Industry that it fell to me to express the government's view on UK competitiveness. When doing so, it appeared to me to be important to achieve at least three things. First, I thought it was time to move on from platitudes and get well below the surface of the subject (hence the practice of producing annual competitiveness white papers). Second, I thought it was vital to ensure that the subject was no longer seen as the sole province of the Treasury, with the DTI in minor supporting role. In mg view, every part of government and of society has a part to play. Third, and perhaps most importantly, I wanted to shift the centre of gravity of this country's thinking about wealth more towards how to create it than how to distribute it. …

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