China doesn’t matter – here’s what does. (And if you don’t care about China, read this anyway.)

Jan 13, 2010

During the last two days I counted 15 articles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal that referenced China and its potential impact on business. Nothing unusual about that – the press has to fill its pages with something, and there’s a regular and consistent tendency to lock on to some geographical area and a timeframe and make an issue of it – India was the happening place in the ‘aughties’, before that countries as disparate as Japan, Ireland and Singapore had their time in the sun, now it’s China’s turn.The truth is, China doesn’t matter to your business. Nor did India, Japan, Ireland or Singapore. That’s not to say China won’t have a major impact – of course it will. China represents both an enormous potential competitive risk and an enormous potential market for many industries and individual organizations. And therein lies the point.

As a high-level decision-maker, you may or may not need to respond to the threat and opportunity of China (it depend on what industry you’re in and what size you are) – but either way, that’s a tactical matter. Of much more importance – and highly relevant to everyone, irrespective of industry or size – is the deeper, strategic question:

How, and how well, do we respond to substantial opportunities or threats.

Quite possibly China is an irrelevancy to you and your business, but chances are there’s a China-equivalent that’s stealing focus from your strategic thinking: maybe it’s a looming new competitor, an impending substantial change in technology or market-threatening legislation. Whatever your ‘China’ is, the key point to remember is that responding to it is a tactical matter and needs to be seen as such. Your ‘China’ will come and go, and will be replaced next week, next month or next year with another threat or opportunity. Then there will be another. Then another. And another.

Predictable Success isn’t built by hand-rolling tactical responses to individual opportunities and threats – even if they are is as big as China. Predictable Success is built by building the organizational meta-capacity to respond well to any threat or opportunity.

So, are you spending today building a one-off tactic that’s focussed on one specific target and which, once that target is hit or disappears, will clutter up your organizational toolkit like a rusted monkey-wrench? Or are you using this specific ‘China’ as a platform to enhance your organization’s (or your division, department, team or group’s) ability to respond nimbly and effectively to threats and opportunities?