“The perfect is the enemy of the good”.
Nowhere is this more true than when trying to make change to improve an enterprise’s competitive position, especially if the improvement is making up for another player’s move in the marketplace.
Far more precious than money when trying to make change is time.
The more an enterprise can “manufacture” time, the more likely it is to move ahead of its competitors.
Time can’t literally be manufactured, of course, but it can be engineered into existence by moving faster than others do.
For most of us, being willing to be “close enough” rather than “right on the money” is all that’s required.
“Close enough” means that business cases are rounded off. Rules of thumb are used.
The goal is to quickly determine whether or not there is a likely case here. If there is, move forward with the effort; if not, look for something else.
It’s not necessary to be precise — indeed, if speed is required, the time required to precisely determine costs and potential benefits robs the business of the opportunity to manufacture some time and use it to its advantage.
For moves that are designed to match a new capability introduced by a competitor, manufacture even more time by dispensing with the business case altogether.
Instead, focus on execution risks — but match the capability as quickly as possible.
Remember that when WalMart, in 1990, introduced its replacement for trickle-transmit in retail and its data warehouse designed to engage suppliers in a new relationship, it opened a 4-5x gap in terms of margins against other retailers: under pressure like this, it is necessary to very quickly match the capability and restore margin balance with the innovator. At first, the second entrant can benefit from similar gains; as others follow, lower margins are restored to all.
Copying, of course, simply restores a status quo: finding a way to exploit a new move is needed to make up the gap originally opened by the competitor and create a new gap in your favour. This, too, is best done by attention to risk and opportunity and done speedily.
Enterprises that buy time have the ability to make more errors and recover from them; they have the ability to find more profitable courses of action through their speed.
When figuring out your future, close enough really is all that’s needed.