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The Secret to Gaining Competitive Advantage (It’s Fundamental!) Part 1

October 20th, 2011 by Bill Mugavin in Leader Development

Many of the books I am reading emphasize optimizing employee performance and engagement in order to create a competitive advantage. Ideas presented include providing employees with career development plans, designing engagement programs, offering flexible scheduling, etc. All of these play a role in optimizing performance/engagement. Based on my consulting and operations management experience, I recommend managers and human resource professionals also examine a fundamental contributor to employee performance/engagement—the work environment. 

The work environment has a significant influence on employee productivity and goal achievement1. Goal achievement impacts an employee’s sense of accomplishment; a positive sense of accomplishment increases job satisfaction and engagement2.  

Therefore, it is important to identify aspects of the work environment that can impact an employee’s ability to perform and engage. I recommend an excellent tool—the Human Performance System (HPS)3. The HPS describes the variables that influence the behavior of an employee and can be used to diagnose any performance problem. The HPS is comprised of the five components illustrated below.Competitive Advantage graphic

In this post I will share potential input factors that can impact optimal performance and engagement. In part 2, I will share potential performer, output, consequence, and feedback factors.  

To apply this information to your organization, think about an employee who is underperforming. Ask yourself the questions below. Any “no” response indicates a potential problem that may need investigation.   

Input Factors

  • Are competency models and job descriptions available?
  • Does the job allow for the use of a variety of skills and abilities, for the freedom to make decisions, and is it considered important inside the organization?
  • Are job outputs and standards linked to process requirements?
  • Are job steps/tasks in a logical sequence?
  • Have clear performance expectations been communicated (SMART Goals)?
  • Are the necessary resources available?
  • Have the right people been recruited, selected, and placed?


  1. Thomas F. Gilbert, Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance (San Francisco: Pfeiffer, 2007). View this book on
  2. Ken Blanchard, Leading at a Higher Level: Blanchard on Leadership and Creating High Performing Organizations, rev. ed. (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: FT Press, 2010). View this book on
  3. Geary A. Rummler, Serious Performance Consulting According to Rummler (San Francisco: Pfeiffer, 2007). View this book on

Bill Mugavin is a consultant at FlashPoint. He focuses his consulting in the areas of organizational development, and leadership and management development.

One Response to “The Secret to Gaining Competitive Advantage (It’s Fundamental!) Part 1”

  1. […] part 1 of, The Secret to Gaining Competitive Advantage, we discussed ways organizations seek to create […]

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