The core competency theory is the theory of strategy that prescribes actions to be taken by firms to achieve competitive advantage in the marketplace. The concept of core competency states that firms must play to their strengths or those areas or functions in which they have competencies. In addition, the theory also defines what forms a core competency and this is to do with it being not easy for competitors to imitate, it can be reused across the markets that the firm caters to and the products it makes, and it must add value to the end user or the consumers who get benefit from it. In other words, companies must orient their strategies to tap into the core competencies and the core competency is the fundamental basis for the value added by the firm.
The term core competency was coined by the leading management experts, CK Prahalad and Gary Hamel in an article in the famous Harvard Business Review. By providing a basis for firms to compete and achieve sustainable competitive advantage, Prahalad and Hamel pioneered the concept and laid the foundation for companies to follow in practice.
Some core competencies that firms might have include technical superiority, its customer relationship management, and processes that are vastly efficient. In other words, each firm has a specific area in which it does well relative to its competitors, this area of excellence can be reused by the firm in other markets and products, and finally, the area of strength adds value to the consumer. The implications for real world practice are that core competencies must be nurtured and the business model built around them instead of focusing too much on areas where the firm does not have competency. This is not to say that other competencies must be neglected or ignored. Rather, the idea behind the concept is that firms must leverage upon their core strengths and play to their advantages.
If we take the examples from real world companies and evaluate their core competencies, we find that many firms have benefited from the application of this theory and that they have succeeded in attaining competitive advantage and sustainable strategic advantage. For instance, the core competencies of Walt Disney Corporation lie in its ability to animate and design its shows, the art of storytelling that has been perfected by the company, and the operation of its theme parks that is done in an efficient and productive manner. Hence, Walt Disney Corporation would be well advised to configure its strategy around these core competencies and build a business model that complements these competencies.
The important aspect to be noted is that core competencies provide the companies with a framework wherein they can identify their core strengths and strategize accordingly. Of course, the identification and evaluation of core competencies must be done as accurately and reliably as possible since the divestment of non-core areas must not lead to the firm missing key areas of operation and competitive advantage. Finally, care must be taken when building the organizational edifice around the core competencies to avoid the situation where many or too few of the competencies are identified leading to redundancies or scarcity.
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