Why America Lost its Competitiveness.

It is the Titanic and Costa Concordia all over again!

Some of the potential excuses used to justify their underperforming companies by current CXOs include:

 Paraphrasing the Law and Order disclaimer:… While potentially based on real statements by many CXO’s, the previous statements are fictional and does not depict any actual person or events… 🙂
 Regardless of their party affiliation, U.S. citizens today ask themselves what happened to their economy in the last 25 years, while continuing to hear the bickering between the democratic and republican party leaders about who’s at fault, and not about how to fix it. The problem may be substantially deeper than even the U.S. government may want to recognize, and one that may not have a solution at hand according to some of the leading researchers in the field of international economic development.


Harvard Weights In:

 U.S. DollarOn their article Competitiveness At a Crossroads Harvard distinguished professors Michael Porter, Jan Rivkin, and Rosabeth Moss Kanter provide a candid review of the state of the current U.S. economic trend, and the potential financial and economic debacle that may still happen if the problems are not addressed soon. The study found that while the roots of the problem can be directly correlated to the development of the globalization movement, the subsequent actions of the leaders of the U.S. government and private enterprises actually contributed to the decline of the economy by focusing on short-term profits, and ignoring the needs of their former employees and communities. As part of their study (and not to my surprise) the authors found that while it is recognized that the U.S. economy has lost its competitiveness in the international markets, the actual CXOs of those companies consider that as managers they are some of the best in the world, and not responsible for the actual decline in the U.S. ability to compete internationally.
 Ok paraphrasing that statement we can say that: The CXO’s of U.S. companies consider that even if they were in command of the ship, it’s not their fault that they ran aground



Yes, it is the captain’s responsibility.

This reminds me of some well known cases where the captains had a lot to do with the success of their actions:
  • Titanic: The captain Edward Smith in order to make a name for himself by making the fastest UK-US trip, took a potentially risky route through dangerous waters.. As potentially expected the ship hit an iceberg and sank, with considerable loss of life. The subsequent investigation found that while the captain was responsible because of his decision to “steam into a dangerous area at too high speed”
  • U.S. Airways Flight 1594: Captain Chesley Sullenberger (Sully), successfully ditched his plane into the Hudson river after striking a flock of geese during his take off from New York, saving passengers, and crediting his crew for their contributions to the rescue. (When was the last time you saw a CxO crediting his employees for their actual work?)
  • Costa Concordia: Even worst than the Titanic, the sinking of the Costa Concordia cannot be explained or justified in any way as it’s captain Francesco Schettino recently try to place the blame on the pilot because “it didn’t reacted well or fast enough to his last minute instructions”.
It seems that there is a theme here common between the three incidents. Regardless of the actual cause of the problem, when the captain (CXO) works with their crew (employees), they can solve pretty much any challenge and provide actual tangible results, as in the case of Cpt. Sully. When that does not happens and the Captain maintains an adversarial and even sometimes elitist attitude (as in the case of the Concordia, and Titanic), there are severe consequences to the crew, passengers, and even eternal stakeholders at large.
U.S. Economic Crisis
U.S. Economic Crisis

In my opinion this is exactly what it is happening today in U.S. corporations, their CXO’s think they’re doing a great job, even when clearly the boat is sinking. We can only hope that they actually wake up before it is too late (some may argue that it is already too late), and start working on what could be beneficial for all stakeholders, and not just on what may give them (CXO’s) the larger quarterly bonus. Today they are acting more like small country dictators that only care about their own pockets, instead of their expected stewards making the welfare of their employees, customers, and stakeholders more important than, or art least as important as, their own. It may be time for them to stop reading the business publications headlines, and start actually reading the articles and learning that if the ship is sinking, it was the captain the one who drove it down that path.


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About Jorge Mastrapa

Dr. Jorge Mastrapa is an international author, speaker, executive coach, and entrepreneur. His areas of expertise include cultural diversity, global leadership, organizational culture, and human capital management.

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