In the article “The Cohesion Premium” Lienwand and Mainardi present a fascinating idea: that the most successful companies focus their energies on a small number of capabilities that interconnect with each other and provide a unique position within the overall market. A capability is something that you do well that customers value and competitors can’t beat. Successful companies from Phizer to Wal-Mart to Coca-Cola all adhere to the principles of cohesion and have proven track records honing in on small sets of interconnected and complementary capabilities in ways that advance their organizations.
What struck me the most from this idea of cohesion and targeted capabilities was the interesting effects that this philosophical framework could have when applied to the public sector, and, specifically, offices of elected officials. Often times, in my work I have seen departments, council offices, and mayoral administrations hit with a slew of expectations and demands from the public. This often creates the temptation for these organizations to try to take on too broad an agenda and not focus in on core competencies (i.e. capabilities). While it is difficult to set hard priorities in the public sphere, where the environment is often shifting and new crises present themselves almost daily, it is clear that adherence to the principles of cohesion could allow for a helpful mechanism from which an agenda can be constructed and resources can be leveraged in a strategic manner.
Moreover, the concept that these capabilities could interconnect with one another presents an increased opportunity for interdepartmental and intergovernmental cooperation. These partnerships could allow for increased and more far reaching successes in service delivery and the advancement of other programming initiatives that are spearheaded by the public sector. By focusing on what is done well and integrating each unique strength, cities, counties, municipalities, and states could find themselves equipped with a helpful and unique framework for distilling issues and guiding larger, more ambitious projects.