Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Success Mantra

In it’s 10 anniversary special issue strategy+business looks at the conceptual breakthroughs that appeared in the magazine — and invited its readers to vote on which were most likely to last. The magazine’s back issues (all available free on it’s Web site,
Here, then, are the winners — the ideas voted most likely to affect the way businesses, including your business, are conducted in the long run.

Top 10 Concepts
(1,911 votes; 49.3 percent of the voters chose this concept). It’s not your strategic choices that drive success, but how well you implement them.
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2.The Learning Organization (1,807; 46.6 percent). A learning organization is one that is deliberately designed to encourage everyone in it to keep thinking, innovating, collaborating, talking candidly, improving their capabilities, making personal commitments to their collective future, and thereby increasing the firm’s long-term competitive advantage.
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3. Corporate Values (1,555; 40.1 percent). Companies that care about ethics, trust, citizenship, and even meaning and spirituality in the workplace (or that simply articulate their values carefully) perform better in the marketplace than companies that care just about “making money.”
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The Value of Corporate ValuesWhy Bad Things Happen To Good Companies

4. Customer Relationship Management (1,554; 40.1 percent). The cultivation of long-term relationships with customers, including awareness of their needs, leads to highly focused, capable companies that try to make consumers “part of the family.”
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5. Disruptive Technology (1,513; 39.0 percent). As Clayton Christensen noted in The Innovator’s Dilemma, technological innovation radically alters markets by undermining incumbent companies — which are vulnerable because their offerings are all tailored to the needs of their existing customers. Change feels like a betrayal of those customer relationships.
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6. Leadership Development (1,432; 37.0 percent): You don’t have to rely on “putting the right people in place.” You can train all employees to be better choosers, better strategists, better managers, and in the end, better leaders. More than a third of the respondents were drawn to this because they saw leverage here: Companies can be both more effective and more responsible with smart leadership development practices in place (several people referred to emotional intelligence in this vein). Leadership is important, not because of the leaders’ actions in themselves, but because of the actions that everyone else takes on their behalf. (For an extended view of this argument, see “The Realist’s Guide to Moral Purpose,” by Nikos
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7. Organizational DNA (1,315; 33.9 percent): Leaders can design an organization’s structures — incentives, decision rights, reporting relationships, and information flows — to induce high performance by aligning them with one another and the strategic goals of the enterprise. Elucidated in the book Results, by Gary L. Neilson and Bruce A. Pasternack, this idea attracted people who wanted to design organizational change without “sermonizing about behavior,” .
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8. Strategy-Based Transformation (1,277; 33.0 percent): Beyond the “blank page” of reengineering, this is the redesign of processes and organizational structures, and the consequent cultural change, to fulfill the strategic goals of the enterprise. In an ideal universe, this would not even be a management concept, because, as one correspondent put it, “All company activities should be aligned to the enterprise strategy.”
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9. Complexity Theory (1,187; 30.6 percent): Markets and businesses are complex systems that can’t be controlled mechanistically, but their emergent order can sometimes be anticipated. An understanding of the ways that complex systems evolve can help managers intervene and act more effectively.
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10. Lean Thinking (1,183; 30.5 percent): This type of process and management innovation is exemplified by the Toyota production system. Employees use a heightened awareness of work flow and demand to cut waste, eliminate cost, boost quality, and customize mass production.
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In the end, a really good business idea has five key qualities.

(1) It is timely: It addresses, in a new, compelling way, an issue that is important to people right now. (It’s no coincidence, for example, that supply chain management became an important concept just as manufacturing became much more global.)
(2) It has explanatory power: It reveals the hidden patterns and interrelationships that shape the phenomena we see, and that other theories or disciplines have not fully explained.
(3) It has pragmatic value: It can be put into practice to produce replicable results. (Even relatively “soft” concepts like organizational learning have a nuts-and-bolts edge, helping to build human capabilities.)
(4) It has a robust empirical foundation: It can be tested with real-world experience, and ideally with measurable data, and can survive theoretical challenge.
(5) It has a natural constituency: A group of key people are ready to hear it.

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