Book Notes: Strategy That Works

“Huge business problem today = Gap between strategy and execution.”Strategy

Shocking to read, but the research shows:

  • 50% of senior executives say they do not have a winning strategy
  • 9 out of 10 admit they are missing market opportunities
  • 3 out of 5 say they lack the capabilities to meet targets
  • 4 out of 5 executives admit their strategy isn’t well understood throughout the company

In Strategy That Works authors Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi examine 14 industry-leading, global companies, known for flawless execution and “doing it their way”.

Well researched and thought out, the book is based on in-depth interviews with executives inside “The 14” companies.  The outcome of their research provides a solution the authors define as “Five non-conventional acts”. Acts that many would deem contrary to popular business thinking – yet all 14 companies apply all five acts to bridge the gap between strategy and execution.

“Most companies are told to search for growth. The 14 say: Growth should be the outcome of your advantage; it shouldn’t be a strategy in itself. ”

Synopsis of 5 acts that close the gap

Identity – while this means different things to different organizations, the 14 companies mentioned in the book boil it down to two factors:

  1. The promise they make to their customers about the value they will create.
  2. The capabilities they need to deliver that promise.

Build capabilities – many companies look to the market for direction. Big companies look at competitor bench marks and best in class processes. The 14 say: Focus on the few things you do best. Build your capabilities around that. And be in a constant state of improvement.

Culture – companies often focus on how to organize, how to assign responsibilities, how to allocate sales incentives, etc. While important issues, The 14 say your culture is more important. Identify positive behaviors that already exist within your company, and leverage them to execute your strategy.

Costs – forget about waiting until you have a problem and then cutting costs across the board. Instead, constantly search for ways to take money from one area and put it in another that’s currently more important.

Shape your own future – many executives fear disruption, waiting to see what direction the market will take, and responding to change as it comes. The 14 say NO to that. Get ahead of change by creating your own disruption. Stay ahead of technology. Figure out where your customers are going; what they’ll be needing. Constantly create new and better ways of serving them.

Final note

The authors stress you must apply all five acts to optimize results, and they provide plenty of tools, workable solutions, and hands-on examples in Strategy That Works to help you do that. Here’s to closing the gap between strategy and execution.

Strategy That Works: How Winning Companies Close the Strategy-to-Execution Gap

Authors Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi, with Art Kleiner

Hardcover, 256 pages  –  Published February 2nd 2016 by Harvard Business Review Press