Sustainablity in maintaining a competitive advantage


The sustainable competitive advantage capability of an organisation is seen to be a reflection of the internally coordinated operations of respective departments, coupled with the organisations external interactions with various stakeholders. Our organisation, See Group Limited is built upon the relationships and networks it has developed, on which we seek to take advantage of our core competence resources to secure support within the market and hence win customer satisfaction by the unique services we offer for the various private and public sector clients.

After being bought by the Dutch multi-national live entertainment group "Stage Entertainment" and "Parcom Capital" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Really Useful Group" and "The Way Ahead group" (Smith, 2008), See had made some tactical moves by purchasing '' Ltd a ticketing software house that provides the 'See 360' ticketing and event management software to major football clubs (See System, 2010).

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Figure 1

Companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that remain fixed while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world (Collins and Porras, 1996). One of See Tickets major business has been for the theatre business. In today's times of recession and growing competition, it surely makes us wonder how See Ticket's manages its customer base for theatre, concerts and entertainment events. How long will it survive or is it just a bad phase? See Ticket's aims to keep this survive and compete by staying true to its vision and mission.

The theory of the business is the set of fundamental premises on which the business is run - the success formula (Drucker, 1994). See Tickets defined its mission as "getting the customers to see what they want" (See, 2010) and its vision as "to be the first name people think of when they want to go to a live event." It considers feedback as the lifeblood, giving an opportunity for customer to share their experiences (See, 2010).

For any business, it is very important to have a constant income to run its operations. See Tickets holds a long-term agreement for the provision of ticketing services for the RUG theatres in London (Smith, 2008). Apart from that, See works with Major clients such as Ryder Cup, Glastonbury, IMG, West Ham United, British Tennis, RUG, trentfm arena, SJM concerts, MPH Topgear live, BBC, The football league, Taste of London and Grand Designs to name a few. This tells us that, we have good networks to sustain ourselves against our competitors. How long it will last is another question. Taking a quick look at our competitors, Ticketmaster which is primarily based in the US, is a monopoly and is slowly entering the British market. is another major competitor for See Tickets. Gigantic is a key competitor in music concerts. Though See Tickets has a contract with the RUG theatres and highly developed relationships with various event organizers, can it defend itself against the strategies of its major competitors? When its competitors are always working on their pricing and distribution strategies, will 'See Tickets' compete just with its good relationships? If customers opt for the other competitors, See Tickets might slowly lose its business revenues and henceforth market shares. However, Social networking is extremely difficult for competitors to imitate as it drives innovation, responsiveness and flexibility. So how are people being led in this organization is what makes the difference. It is now important that 'See Tickets' realigns its strategies with its various constituencies. Before we deep dive into this subject, let us first look at the internal and external stakeholder relationships and interdependencies.

See Tickets Business Model

A business model is essential to assure coordination, connected on several levels. The sense that we make depends on our position in and perspective on, the organisation is influenced by the groups or constituencies that we belong to or identify with (Fredrick's, 2009). Organizations comprise many such groupings (called constituencies) which co-operate or conflict as they pursue their goals and interests. This generates temporary alliances and strategic exchanges - exchanges of real and symbolic resources within the organisation or across the organisation boundary. Constituencies develop power and influence within an organisation when they control key or critical resources upon which the organisation depends for on-going survival. These powerful constituencies vary over time, as the critical resource dependency of the organisation varies. Watson (2002) argues that successful strategy process rests upon a clear understanding of these constituencies and being able to win their support and commitment. The business model below explains the flow of cash and the involvement of the various constituencies.

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Figure 2

To be able to win the support and commitment of the constituencies, there is a need for the strategic discourse between them. Discourses are created by the aggregation of actions and statements of many individuals and organizations over time, and are not created by the instrumental actions of individuals working in isolation (Phillips & Hardy, 1997). Eccles & Nohria (1993, p. 88) consider strategy to be a particular kind of rhetoric that provides a "common language used by people at all levels of an organization in order to determine, justify, and give meaning to the constant stream of actions that the organization comprises." Discourse does not merely describe things; it does things (Potter & Wetherell, 1987; Grant et al., 1998). Discourse is both socially constituted and socially constitutive as it produces objects of knowledge, social identities and relationships between people (Fairclough & Wodak, 1997).

To explain how discourses operate, there is a need to examining its internal structures, the actions of individuals, or the use of language. We need to explore how discourse as social action is embedded within broader frameworks of understanding, communication and interaction. For example, the acquisition of 'Intascape Limited' had been one of the biggest moves of See Tickets. Prior to the acquisition, See Tickets only dealt with Theater shows and Music concerts, but after the acquisition, moved into sport events as well. It also gave See Tickets a competitive edge in terms of its technology. The communication and development of this acquisition in relationship to its constituencies can be understood from the diagram below.

Figure 3

In circuits of activity; the management attempt to introduce new discursive statements that will connect objects to particular concepts. Their activities revolve around the introduction of symbols, stories, metaphors etc. The management acquired 'Intascape Limited' which was a company known for developing software to sport organizations. For these circuits of activity to engage other actors, they must intersect with circuits of performativity (Lyotard, 1984). The organization (See Tickets) was now associated with the concept of being a multi service organization, dealing with theater events, music concerts and sport events. This occurs when the discursive activity is grounded in a period and context in which the relevant concepts have meaning; when the subject position of the enunciator warrants voice; and when the symbols used possess receptivity and resonate with appropriate actors. This would mean that more clients and stakeholders would do business with See Tickets based on its new development. Activity and performativity create a circuit of connectivity as concepts are successfully attached to specific objects. As a result, new subject positions (Jockey club) and practices emerge (Data collection) and discourse becomes deposited into taken-for-granted practice and language. In this way, prevailing discourses are contested, displaced, transformed, modified or reinforced thereby affecting the context for future discursive activities (Hardy and Palmer, 1999). In this case, we are focusing on the discursive activities of the management and their effects, primarily, on individuals outside the organization although, as is clear, there were significant indirect effects on members of the organization.

Strategic Leading and Knowledge Management

Goran Carstedt (2007) says, organisational leadership is not all about managing people but leading them with ideas that inspire and that are in tune with the times we live in. To be able to take a group of people from here to there, you need to invite them to something that is full of meaning, purpose, learning - you have to invite them to something that is really worth their fullest commitment (Goran Carstedt, 2007). An organization achieves a sense of direction from its mission and vision. While the vision is a long term goal, the targets can be considered as short term goals. But for a management to lead its people, it needs to convey this vision, through discourse and sensemaking. Sensemaking means "inventing a new meaning (interpretation) for something that has already occurred during the organizing process, but does not have a name, has never been recognized as a separate autonomous process, object, event (Magala, 1997).

See Tickets is a target driven organization, which follows a system control perspective of leadership, where the goals clear, given and fixed. Systems-control orthodoxy tends to promote a rather mechanistic view of organizations and managerial work seeing managing as an activity mainly concerned with "designing and controlling work organizations as if they were big machine-like systems rationally devised to meet unambiguous organizational goals" (Watson, 2002, p. 2). However, to satisfy the different market demands and ensure employees' participation, the process has to be more fixable and interacted. As previously discussed in the introduction, See Tickets manages a good network of relationships and operations, but there is a lack of collaboration among the constituencies. Knowledge sharing is very minimal. Customer feedback is not taken into consideration while making strategic decisions.

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The strategic leading process is an effective foundation that assists in setting the pace in the right direction while knowing what to do next; and it improves the interaction and contribution within the organization which introduces the chance to adapt and assimilate new insights of how to coordinate and make sense of the relationships (Fredericks, 2009). In order for 'See Tickets', to improve their business opportunity and prevent any failure caused by any kind of conflict, it is requested from the management to generate a clear picture of our different constituencies that introduce a leading, following, knowing and learning relationship. For example, creating a general diagram of the leading process for the ticketing market could clarify how the different departments interact. Moreover, this could give an idea of where our organization could improve employees' participation and decision making.

Figure 4, Based on the Leading-Following model (Fredricks, 2009)

As shown in the above figure, we can see the layout of our organization's process and the relations externally, both toward the customer and internally with other departments. The "potential customer", is lead in by the media and internet info, in which they contact the "call centre" which will enter into a discourse trying to understand the needs and requirements of the "customer". The Call Centre is informed by the IT, Marketing and Distribution departments (on the cost, availability and offers of the tickets) which the call centre reports back to the customer. The departments also interact with each other, thereby learning from each other and knowing what to do next (in terms of the transaction) all undergoing the leading, following, knowing and learning processes. This information leads the Management who in turn lead the Media and Internet (via client). We can see that all the departments communicate with the customer, and are learning from each other and know what to do next. However, the internal learning and knowledge sharing between the departments is not sufficient compared to the department's interaction with the customer. This might cause a level of divergence from the customer's scope. Therefore, in order to let 'See Tickets' gain more out of the discourse and leading process internally, it is important to understand how 'See Tickets' share the knowledge and if this is suitable to be applied to the business strategy.

Knowledge Management

Organizational knowledge creation is the process of capturing and protecting knowledge created by individuals as well as connecting it to an organization's knowledge system. New research questioned the notion of information as a 'pre-given', and proposed that the organization should be viewed as processes of 'information creation' (Nonaka, 1987).

Knowledge is explicit and tacit (Nonaka, 1991). Knowledge that can be uttered,

formulated in sentences, captured in drawings and writing, is explicit.

Knowledge tied to the intuition, physical experiences, movement skills and senses, is tacit (Polanyi, 1966). For this knowledge to sustain, the tacit knowledge has to be converted to explicit and preserved for future learning. In our organization, Process Experts know how to develop ticketing, distribution and communication strategies. The IT team has the knowledge to create the tools based on customer/employee preferences and ease. Various call center agents know how to convince customers regarding tickets and offers. Managers know how to direct these expertises to benefit the organization. But if these talent workers (employees) leave the organization, they will be taking away the knowledge they have, leaving the organization helpless. Apart from operational procedures, feedback from employees and customers needs to be considered as knowledge as well. Though See Tickets has 'taking feedback' in its mission statement, there is very little actually being considered for organizational benefit. Knowledge has to be captured, researched, utilized and expanded.  By interacting and sharing tacit and explicit knowledge with others, the individual enhances the capacity to define a situation or problem, and apply his or her knowledge so as to act and specifically solve the problem.

Figure 4 (Source: Nonaka, 1991)

The corporate vision and the organizational culture provide the knowledge base to 'tap' tacit knowledge, while technology taps the explicit knowledge in the organization (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995). New knowledge from the customers' usage of the products/services may be inherently tacit (von Hippel, 1988). Therefore, it must be shared with the firms' managers through intense collaboration with the customers, and it must be made explicit and justified before the knowledge can be communicated through information systems. A central purpose of organizational knowledge creation theory is to identify conditions enabling knowledge creation in order to improve innovation and learning (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995; von Krogh et al. 2000).

Concept of BA

Ba is a shared space for emerging relationships. It can be a physical, virtual or mental space, but all three have knowledge embedded in 'ba' and is acquired through personal experiences or reflections on others experiences.

The employees are not just agents/IT technicians working like robots. They are more than that. They need to be given a platform to put forth their ideas and strategies as well. Companies like 'General Electric' believe in the "Power of One", where they claim the true knowledge of the working concepts are in the agent level employees of the organization. The managers, need to collect and direct these ideas into something meaningful. GE implements strategies like Quickhits, Lean ideas, Muda (waste removal) and Kaizans. They are gathered from the ideas and views of the agent level employees and not managers and directors. If See Tickets, would implement few of these concepts, they would discover new opportunities, gaps and improvements that they could never have imagined.

To participate in 'ba' means to become engaged in knowledge creation, dialogue, adapt to and shape practices, and simultaneously transcend one's own limited

perspective or boundaries. The cyber ba is a place of interaction in the virtual world rather than in the physical world. Combining explicit new knowledge with existing information and knowledge serves to systematize and generate explicit knowledge throughout the organization. While the effective knowledge creation in the physical Ba's limit the number of participants (von Krogh et al. 2000), the cyber 'ba' can involve hundreds of individuals in the organization by using information and communication technology.

In See Tickets, as the process operations go through a lot of changes and updates, there needs to be a common database/platform (for e.g homepage of the LAN network) which carries all the updates so that the agents are aware of the new procedures. This system, reduces operational errors and ensures quality. It also gives scope for innovation and learning where employees share their ideas and improvements with other teams and staff, helping managers to make required changes, if beneficial.

Figure 5

Information systems designed to support electronic repositories, email communication, collaboration and simulation may enable teamwork by supporting the exchanging and organizing of knowledge. In the organization, the

problem of coordinating and integrating knowledge input from these local

activities needs to be resolved (Grant 1996). Knowledge activists also help to identify gaps in the team's knowledge and ascertain how these could be filled by packaging, dispatching and recreating knowledge locally and between teams.

Stakeholder Management

Our business involves interaction with various stakeholders. Stakeholder management involves building and maintaining the active support and commitment of these people to facilitate the timely implementation of the change or project. By understanding an individual's motives and position, it becomes possible to influence, in a positive way, the process of change, and to minimize or resolve issues which may have become a barrier to change. This approach will be applicable to internal and external stakeholders such as trade associations, interest groups, regulatory bodies etc.

It is important to identify the stakeholders and list them down to classify the resources they control, Nature of stake and concerns, the metrics, their level if interest and power. We need to map stakeholders on a Stakeholders Matrix according to the level of impact of the change and the importance of these stakeholders to the success of the change project.

Figure 6 (Source: Johnson, Scholes and Whittington 2005)

Once the stakeholders are placed on the Power-Interest Matrix, there is a need to prepare an action plan for managing the stakeholders using the information in the stakeholders map. The action plan should identify who is responsible for managing the stakeholder, what actions need to be taken and timescales. The action plan should also be consistent with communications planning for the project.

The basic principles of the stakeholder-oriented integrative strategic management framework is illustrated in the below figure. Essentially, environment based strategies, resource based strategies, networking strategies and corporate responsibility strategies feed knowledge management and stakeholder oriented strategies to deliver advantage-creating knowledge and advantage-creating stakeholder relations as part of the company's core competencies and dynamic capabilities. These capabilities determine the company's financial and responsibility performance which could be controlled through feedback loops to the originating strategies.

Figure 7 (Source: Katsoulakos and Katsoulakos, 2007)

A central premise of the outlined approach is the synergistic development of advantage-creating knowledge and advantage-creating stakeholder relations in accordance with the resource based theory. In the case of See Tickets, the Knowledge Management strategies which we discussed earlier and the Stakeholder Management Strategy will help us develop our core competencies and dynamic capabilities which our competitors will find hard to imitate. This will impact the performance of the organization, henceforth leading to a better performance.

Strategic Partnership

See Tickets maintains partnerships with various organizations, which is business to business (B2B) based. Business-to-business (B2B) marketplaces enable the efficient congregation of business partners and exchange of goods and services by serving as an information and coordination hub (Phillips and Meeker, 2000). However, they not only support cooperation and partnerships among their members, but also require extensive partnerships themselves to provide these benefits. While marketplace providers should partner with buyers and sellers in order to realize the potential of their business model as intermediaries, they must also form strategic partnerships with service providers.

One key aspect of this new manner of strategizing and operating that is crucial for B2B marketplaces is the use of partnerships with specialized service providers, e.g. logistics service providers, financial services companies or content providers, and other marketplaces. Forming strategic partnerships with specialized service providers is an important means for B2B marketplaces to achieve a strong competitive position.

See Tickets having a partnership with Alliance Cornhill, which is an insurance provider, is beneficial to both the organizations. 'See Tickets' has a better competitive advantage, because it provides insurance on its tickets and 'Alliance Cornhill' has more business because of its tie up with 'See'. In the same way, See Tickets has a partnership with American Express (AE). See accepts, the bank (AE) to make direct booking's for its customers, where AE takes a percentage for the service. This partnership is mutually beneficial. See receives more business, as it is being promoted by AE to all its customers, and AE makes money out of its share.

Apart from direct financial advantages, strategic partnership helps in developing a knowledge base through information sharing. See Tickets partnership with the RUG Theaters, Nimax and Delfont-Mackintosh, helps them to share the customer database, which each of them have. Through this, whenever there is a promotion, a new launch, offers, vouchers etc, the customer's could be informed, through mail/e-mail, henceforth increasing sales.

Strategic partnership can be used to attract partners with core competencies in those areas where the organization does not have the strong competencies (Subramani and Walden, 2000). B2B marketplaces can add value by integrating information from all parties involved. Dai and Kauffman (2001) point out that this role of marketplaces as infomediaries (Hagel and Singer, 1999) is not solely focused on lowering communications and search costs as was initially expected. They will also have to aim at maintaining and supporting long-term business relationships. Thus, a key element of a suitable strategic approach for B2B marketplaces to compete successfully is to possess extensive partnering skills and a well-thought out partnering strategy. This enables them to coordinate their own service modules, as well as those of other marketplaces and those of specialized service providers. All these services should be able to be arranged flexibly, to meet the varying and evolving requirements that a marketplace provider faces from the customer side.

With the help of strategic partnerships, the See Tickets can

Achieve financial support

Greater service scope

Greater product scope

Extension of the information value chain

Figure 8

Competencies are defined as 'non-tangible, knowledge-based resources that are not easily tradable on factor markets' (Rasche, 1994). Partnerships help develop these kind of non-tangible networks. See Tickets needs to concentrate on developing these kinds of partnerships with finance, marketing, logistics and other organization to improve on its core competencies. Core competencies are the specialized skills that an organisation possesses which are difficult for competitors to copy (Hamel and Prahalad, 1994).  For example, See Ticket's customer service skills, technical/subject matter know-how, a reliable process and/or close relationships with customers and suppliers are examples of its core competencies. These competencies are usually built over a long period of time. Core competence must offer benefits that customers will value.  Core competency results in successful core businesses.  It must be unique and provide access to new markets in the future. 

For 'See Tickets' to be competitive in the ever-changing market, we should ask what skills and competencies it currently has and what new competencies they would need to acquire to succeed.  The organisation may employ a variety of strategies to build these competencies. For example, See Tickets acquiring Intascape limited for developing its IT resources was a strategic move. Amongst them might be acquisitions or joint ventures to gain access to and learn about the required competencies.  It might be by empowering staff, investing in training and development, hiring external expertise or in various partnerships with customers or supplier organizations. To help organizations identify core competencies, Hamel and Prahalad (1994) have developed the matrix shown in the below figure.

Figure 9


The paper was designed to review the efficacy of the internal and external leadership processes of See Tickets. The paper has shown firstly that social networking is extremely difficult for competitors to imitate as it drives innovation, responsiveness and flexibility. It then shows how it is important for our organization to use discourse as a strategic resource that increases the rationality and leads our organization strategically. Then we discuss as to how people are being led in this organization, hence forth creating a better understanding between the various constituencies. We also discuss about how the existing knowledge gap in See Tickets could be tackled with knowledge management. The concept of a cyber Ba could be introduced to manage information and knowledge through discourse with various constituencies. After that, we have analyzed the importance of stakeholder management and how it affects the core competencies and dynamic capabilities of the organization. Finally, we have discussed how strategic partnerships benefit the organization and develop the core competencies. Based on the analysis, the following conclusion can be drawn; that discourse is crucial in order to improve our organization in leading strategically. Moreover it will introduce a better environment for knowledge sharing and will enhance the relation between the stakeholders.