Why Your Next Transformation Should be ‘All In’

Improve the odds of a successful business transformation by going “all in” to kick-start performance and remake your portfolio.

9 Habits of World Class Startups

Startups that grow into transformative companies do two things: (1) they nail the basics and (2) they cultivate the right habits (core operating principles).

The first is mandatory. If you don’t get the basics right, in all probability your company won’t succeed. A list of things we consider basics:

  • Fundraising (don’t run out of capital)
  • Ship (don’t just talk about it, ship it)
  • Customer focus (live

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For Outstanding Performance, Change How You Solve Problems

Ask any business leader if he or she is good at solving problems and the likely response is, “Of course!” After all, business leaders spend a lot of their time navigating problems. If they weren’t good at it, those leaders would lose their jobs, wouldn’t they? Not if the organization doesn’t know what robust problem solving looks like. Most organizations don’t and as a result … [ Read more ]

How to Make the Bold Strategy Moves that Matter

What does it take to make a true performance leap? The authors of Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick explain the key strategic levers their analysis has revealed, and how strongly you have to pull them.

A Better Business through a Great Place to Work for All

What it means to be a great workplace has evolved. We have entered a new era, a new frontier in business. Our economy has evolved through agrarian, industrial, and ‘knowledge’ phases to the point where the essential qualities of human beings—things like passion, creativity, and a willingness to work together—are the most critical. In this ‘human economy,’ every employee matters.

A New Approach to Contracts

Companies understand that their suppliers are critical partners in lowering costs, increasing quality, and driving innovation, and leaders routinely talk about the need for strategic relationships with shared goals and risks. But when contract negotiations begin, they default to an adversarial mindset and a transactional contracting approach. They agonize over every conceivable scenario and then try to put everything in black-and-white. A variety of contractual … [ Read more ]

Masters of the Middle-Market Universe

The midsized companies in the U.S. that grow the fastest understand their strong suits and play their hands accordingly.

How Much Does Management Matter to Productivity?

More than you might realize. Research finds management practices account for 20% of variation in productivity among certain firms.

Freek Vermeulen

Benchmarking is by definition where companies look at the best-performing companies in their industry. What companies don’t look at is the bottom-performing ones. Companies therefore are inclined to imitate the practice and strategies of the top 10 performing companies — whichever they pick in the benchmarking exercise. But of course different strategies and practices are often associated with different risks. Some strategies may, on average, … [ Read more ]

Scott Keller, Mary Meaney

To most leaders, the speed and flexibility that drive innovation lie at the opposite end of the spectrum from standardization and centralization, which promote efficiency and control risk. Not so. Rita Gunther McGrath’s research sheds light on agile organizations. Large companies that raise their income disproportionately, she found, have two main characteristics: they are innovative and experimental and can move quickly but also have consistent … [ Read more ]

Duff McDonald

Each year, scores of management books claim significant new scientific findings in the pursuit of an unchanging goal: how to perform better, both individually and in groups. But most of those so-called findings are neither scientific nor new. The majority of management writers simply offer up freshly tossed word salads in hopes of coining that year’s business buzzword.

The Journey to Exceptional Performance

When it comes to corporate financial performance, we typically think in absolute terms, measuring ROA in percentage points. We are less accustomed to thinking of corporate performance in relative terms, but knowing a company’s relative performance is essential to setting and achieving performance improvement targets and, eventually, exceptional performance.

The Case Against Corporate Short Termism

Despite strong pressures to focus on the short term, it is possible to manage for the long term and reap considerable rewards.

Camilo Becdach, Shannon Hennessy, Lauren Ratner

Managers either love or hate benchmarks. Those in the former camp see benchmarks as valuable metrics for understanding the competitive landscape and for triggering important internal discussions; they believe companies should strive to meet or exceed benchmarks. Those in the latter camp argue that every company is unique and that it’s therefore unhelpful and illogical to compare one company’s decisions, structure, and head count to … [ Read more ]

What Makes a CEO ‘Exceptional’?

We assessed the early moves of CEOs with outstanding track records; some valuable lessons for leadership transitions emerged.

Shannon Hennessy

Everyone loves to hate on benchmarks, and I can understand where that comes from. There are people who have deep scars from watching benchmarks get misused and from trying to compare one company to another in a way that they aren’t similar.

That said, I have not seen anything be as effective as benchmarks in triggering some hard questions, such as “Why does it take 50 … [ Read more ]

Steven Sinofsky

Business is a social science which leads to lots of crazy advice that arises from doing whatever seems to be working at a given moment for a visible and successful company. […] Conversely, if something isn’t going well then it won’t be long before the collective wisdom concludes that you need to go with the other end-point of the pendulum.

Duncan Watts

You’re trying to understand what makes something successful, but you’re only studying successful things. But of course, most of the things that successful people do are also done by unsuccessful people. So all successful people have breakfast, right? Maybe having breakfast is the key to being successful. Well, it turns out that’s not a very predictive feature. But you already know that if you study … [ Read more ]

Agility: It Rhymes with Stability

Companies can become more agile by designing their organizations both to drive speed and create stability.