My very first car was a Ford Cortina, a 1.3 Basic Cortina and it was a company owned rep-mobile.  Basic it certainly was.  Whilst it did have a heated rear window, that was about it.   
Hand wound window winders, not even a radio.  It certainly didn’t have anything as special as a locking glove compartment.  That and other luxuries were reserved for the more expensive, goodie laden L, GL and Ghia versions…which cost more. Of course.
Although, for its time – the early 1980’s, for its place – the UK and for its market – cheap reliable company owned cars for junior sales reps, it was a perfect example of excellence.
And Ford knew what it was doing by offering a series of increasingly upmarket vehicles, designed to meet the expectations of people further up the organisational hierarchy…and charging a higher price at every step for each additional set of features.
Ford was applying (whether it knew it or not) the approach defined by Professor Kano (it is now called the Kano Model).
In essence Kano says that we can group features into three categories;

  •  Basic ‘must haves’ are those features that have to be included for a customer to even begin to have a positive relationship with your product or company.  If you don’t have these features in your core product or offering then your prospect or customer will be disappointed.  But if you try and ‘oversatisfy’ your customer by loading in extra high quality basic musts, then it sadly doesn’t lead to greater satisfaction or excellence.  An example might be a hotel chain – we all expect its web based booking system to be simple and easy to use…preferably optimised for mobile.  If it has more bells and whistles, that won’t make us any more satisfied…if you can’t book a room on-line, then that is a missing ‘must have’ and many of us are likely to be dissatisfied.
  • Performance ‘more is better’ features are those that customers ascribe a value to – so the more you include for any given price the better the deal…for your customer.  Your opportunity is to charge more for them and hence increase your margins.  An example might be (to go back to my 80’s Cortina) to include a radio or even a radio cassette and charge a premium for including it.

You can see immediately, that what might be a Performance feature in the 1980s would definitely be no more than a Basic today…excellence is transient!
Professor Kano also identified a third group of features which he termed;

  • Delighters are features that lead you to go ‘wow’, I never even thought I needed that.  But now I’ve got it its great.  I remember just how many Delighters I found with my first iPhone – all those useful and free apps as an example

The thing about Delighters is that they only work if the other two feature sets are adequately covered…in the case of my iPhone, it still needed to let me make and receive phone calls and have an adequate battery life – which it did…but only just.

Just as with Performance features, excellence is transient – the existence of apps in themselves is no longer a Delighter to me, more of a Basic must have.
What was once Competitive is now hopelessly Obsolete
Going back to the 80s car for a moment – we can see how it would be hopelessly uncompetitive today…so many of the features that were Performance and Delighters are just required Basic features…and carry no premium. 
Excellence is transient and the moral is that we all have to keep on changing and improving, leading and following what our competitors do and our customer expect.
It applies to People as Well
Professor Kano’s Model is equally applicable to each and every one of us.  Our excellence is transient. 
What were the Basic requirements for competent performance back in the 80s would be nothing like sufficient to satisfy an employer today.  Just one example – no computer skills were needed, as we didn’t have computers and the sales skills we were using would be seen as aggressive and counter-productive today.
The moment we stop developing our skills and capabilities is the moment we start to become like my Cortina looks in a car park today – anachronistic, cheap and no more than a curiosity.
Please don’t let that happen to you, your staff or your organisation.

Photo of Cortina – copyright

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