6 04 2012

At first glance, the recent by-election in Bradford West and its shock result owed little to corporate understanding of Equality and of the difference a good strategy can make to increasing market share within those groups defined by the Equality Act as having ‘protected characteristics’.

However, take a closer look and the lesson becomes clear; if you are not employing good strategy in targeting minority groups, your competitors soon will and, regardless of the quality of product on offer, may gain competitive advantage as a result.

This blog has recently covered politicians’ poor understanding of strategy. That is not to say they have no strategy, just that when they do it is generally of poor quality. I have also recently written of Equality and the need to do more than simply be legally compliant, to have a policy and to believe your company accessible to all.

Both the politicians and the apparently accessible company share a trait, a dangerous trait; that of complacency. And in Bradford West the mainstream political parties, Labour (who were expecting an easy win) in particular, were clearly complacent. They believed their strategy guaranteed victory, they assumed accessibility, they assumed their strategy took their message to all sections of the community in a way that would secure votes and they assumed an understanding of the diverse sections within the broader community.

That is a lot of assuming and a lot of complacency. But that was okay because they had their strategy. But, as history has now shown us, one of their competitors, one they underestimated, had a good strategy.

That good strategy did not rely on a superior product; Big Brother cat imitation escapades aside, George Galloway’s voting attendance record during previous sittings as an MP was below 8%. What made it a good strategy was that it did not assume equality of access or of reach; it looked at the demographic of the constituency, it adapted for different groups and it talked in language a majority of that demographic understood.

When we look at the many and varied groups described as having ‘protected characteristics’ by the 2010 Equality Act, how does your company strategy position your company in terms of such reach?

Of course, you think you are accessible (so did the hotel in this recent article). Of course, you believe you are legally compliant (you’d be surprised). Of course, you have your Equality Policy in place (don’t you?). But what is your strategy, how are you actively going about reaching all sections of society?

For any business (or political party) aspiring to success, this is a serious question. Those people with ‘protected characteristics’ as defined by the Equality Act are not small groups; those defined as disabled cover 25% of the population alone, women 51%. Even the apparently small 2.7% Muslim population represents over 1.6 million people when translated to numbers. Each offer, to greater or lesser degrees, increased and often ignored market share.

Good strategy should secure and deliver competitive advantage as so emphatically demonstrated by George Galloway in Bradford.

You (should) have your equality policy in place but do you also have your Equality Strategy? Or are you waiting for your competitors to ‘do a Galloway’ on you?

There is a big difference between having strategy and having good strategy. Which is yours?

Recent Blogs on politicians and strategy:

Strategy Still A Struggle For Government (9th March 2012)

Cameron’s Confusion On Strategy Provides Learning For Business (29th March 2012)

Recent Blogs on Equality:

Equality – No Room For Excuses (4th March 2012)

Equality & Ignorance Driven Insanity In Business (14th March 2012)

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, April 2012

Read more blogs by Jim Cowan

Twitter @cowanglobal



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