PRIME Your Competencies

Distinctive competency is a great tool to help identify what makes your organization unique in your industry. More specific than core competencies—the things your team does well—distinctive competencies are those aspects of your business that differentiates you from your competitors and other suppliers.

Consider your attributes in these categories: Purpose, Reputation, Innovation, Methods and Expertise.


We use the acronym PRIME to drill down on these categories of distinctive competencies. PRIME is an aid for identifying the best projects to pursue. It provides guidance on the capabilities a company can leverage and help to reveal deficiencies that may be corrected through partnering and promotional programs..

You can also use PRIME to identify your own personal strengths as well as areas you want to improve.


Are you passionate about the idea? Does it align with your “why”?

Successful companies have a purpose—a passion and zeal for their products and the work they perform. These companies are market-centered with an appetite for solving problems. Seasoned executives have learned a passion for customers translates into value for shareholders.

A purpose focused on markets and their problems makes employees go that extra mile—it keeps them going when times get rough. It’s what author Simon Sinek describes with his Start With Why concept.

What is your company’s “why”? What is your organization’s purpose?


Would your customers expect you to deliver it? Does it align with what you’re best known for?

Sure, you can develop almost any product or service, but will your customers embrace it? Will they see it as a logical addition to your portfolio? If your company has an established reputation in a domain or market, you’re likely to have the authority to offer additional products to your existing customers. Sales people know this is true: Once a customer has successfully bought from you, they’re inclined to buy more from you. When considering new products to offer, make sure the idea aligns with your existing reputation.

Does the market you serve expect you to solve this type of problem or offer this type of solution?


Do you have new ideas and a unique perspective?

Innovation brings a new idea or creative thought to an existing market or industry. Innovation can also be viewed as an application of better solutions that meet new requirements. For example, you might develop a new product that transforms the existing portfolio and opens a new market for your company.

Innovation may be expressed in a new type of technology, but it can also be a new delivery model, a new approach with pricing and packaging, a new methodology or a new service. It can reflect a new way of thinking about an old concept.

What have you improved beyond its original state? Have you created a new design or device?


Do you have systems and processes that validate your solution?

Methods and systems help scale a solution or an organization. By implementing methods and delivery systems, teams ensure consistency across the organization and into the customer base. Methods include procedures, techniques and practices. Systems include processes for defining products, delivering them to market, managing customer orders and sales status and other operational infrastructure but can also embrace thinking systems such as design thinking or the PRIME concept for distinctive competencies.

What systems and methods do you consistently leverage in your organization? Has your company implemented procedures to create your solutions? What practices or routines have you systemized to increase production or decrease cost? Do you subscribe to any exclusive formulas?


Do you have the know-how to deliver on your ideas?

Experts possess comprehensive and authoritative knowledge or or skill in a particular area. Expertise in products, markets and industries. Thought-leadership in your domain like product management or marketing.

How widespread is the experience of your team for the markets and types of products you want to pursue? Is the expertise found in only a few employees, or does everyone on the team (or everyone in the organization) have expertise?

Consider this: A company introduces a product based on the experience of a single employee. Unfortunately, because she was the only one with that expertise, she quickly becomes a bottleneck for all decisions. Instead of continuing as the single go-to source, she socializes her expertise with the relevant teams. She shares her domain knowledge with the development and support teams, as well as sales and marketing. She creates persona and use scenarios to help the teams increase their understanding of the discipline and the market. In a short time, teams have the context necessary to use their own judgement instead of coming to her for every question.

Using PRIME for Your Career

PRIME is also helpful as a way to explore your individual capabilities—to help you focus your own professional development and career planning.

What excites you? What drives your occupation? What aspects of your job feel less like work and more like a hobby?

Do your career accomplishments demonstrate why you are the right person for the position you’re seeking? What value do you bring to the table?

What have you created or improved to advance your career, to simplify a work process or to generate new revenue for you business?

What techniques have you mastered? What systems do you know? What supports your daily work?

What are your areas of personal expertise? What skills set you apart? Can you create personas and positioning using the techniques you learned from Pragmatic Institute? Are you an expert in sales or marketing methods, design-thinking, Scrum, SAF/e or Lean? What expertise can you share with your team and your markets?


Brainstorm your distinctive capabilities and competencies using the PRIME model and then use this worksheet to rate them. Are they reasonably unique in your market? Are they valued by your customers? Can you prove it?

Just because some items score poorly doesn’t mean you can’t improve them. If you have high expertise but low reputation, look for ways to increase your exposure. Consider creating a blog or sending an article to The Pragmatic.

Think about your daily work and invent a simpler approach to defining and delivering products. (Do we really need market segments or are personas a more powerful concept?)

If you have a weak score on purpose, think about who you can help and how. That will lead you from ways to help yourself toward ways you can help your customers and industry.

PRIME is a tool to help you identify areas of strength and areas to improve. Use it to focus your organizational strategies as well as providing focus for your career.

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin

Navigate to other Posts

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success.  Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.

Related Content

Training on Your Schedule

Fill out the form today and our sales team will help you schedule your private Pragmatic training today.

Never miss a thing.

From new podcasts and webinars to events and great content, make sure you’re always in-the-know by subscribing to Pragmatic Institute.

Choose your preferences below and receive only the things you care about most. We’ll keep your information confidential and never share it with third parties.

Stay up-to-date on all the latest news and products. 

Subscribe today.