Must-Win Battles shows leaders exactly how to identify the 3 to 5 critical challenges most likely to make or break their businesses -- and then mobilize people and resources to successfully execute on them. This book draws on the authors' exceptional experience as world-class consultants and leading-edge business researchers, and builds on the highly successful executive program they created for IMD, one of the world's best business schools. The authors show leaders how to cut through uncoordinated initiatives, create a short list of true "must-wins," focus relentlessly on them, and infuse their organizations with renewed energy and effectiveness. Along the way, discover how to recognize which victories will make the greatest difference, avoid unwinnable battles, drive consensus when somebody's ox is inevitably being gored, make sure must-win battles are specific and measurable, and change the behavior of your top management team to lock in this laser-sharp focus for future battles.
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Peter Killing and Thomas Malnight are Professors of Strategy at IMD. The ideas in this book come directly from their extensive work with management teams across many countries, and in both large and small organizations, creating winning strategies using must-win battle concepts. From these experiences it is abundantly clear that the “intellectual” approach to strategy is not enough. What Peter, Tom, and the managers highlighted in this book believe is that “strategic priorities with heart” will win the day.
At IMD, Peter runs company-specific programs for companies such as Nestlé, BMW, PepsiCo International, Scottish & Newcastle, Tetra Laval and Tate & Lyle. Tom’s experience includes work with companies such as Unilever, A.P. Moller-Maersk Group, Masterfoods, Firmenich, Carlsberg, and Adecco. He also directs IMD’s Booster Program, an intensive program focusing on accelerating project and team development, while Peter runs the Breakthrough Program for Senior Executives and Mastering New Challenges, a program for managers about to take on new responsibilities.
Both Tom and Peter have written widely on the topics of strategy, change, and leadership, in publications ranging from the Harvard Business Review to the Academy of Management Journal. Peter is a co-author of a strategy text, Strategic Analysis and Action, which is currently in its sixth edition.
Tom has a DBA from the Harvard Business School and was on the faculty of The Wharton School for seven years before joining IMD. Before his doctorate, he spent 10 years with Mitsubishi International Corporation, including two years in Japan. Peter holds a Ph.D. from the Ivey Business School in Canada, where he taught for 20 years and was Associate Dean of Executive Education at the time he came to IMD.
Tracey Keys has 20 years of experience as a consultant and manager, focused on complex strategy and organizational issues. She has worked with companies in the media, consumer goods, finance, and new media sectors across Europe, the U.S., and Africa. Previously, Tracey has held senior roles at the BBC, where she was Head of Corporate Planning, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Deloitte & Touche/Braxton Associates. She has also been an active advisor to start-ups, several of which have been launched successfully in the technology, publishing, wine and consulting fields. Tracey is a Fulbright Scholar and holds an MBA from The Wharton School, where she was distinguished as a Palmer Scholar.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Why Write This Book
Why Write This Book?
(Or, Who Needs Another Management Concept?)
Let's be clear. Although we are professors, we are not writing about some clever idea we have dreamed up and are hoping that some management team will then try to tell us whether it works. Nor did we "invent" the must-win battle (MWB) concept and then unleash it on a collection of unsuspecting executives so we could write about the results.
In fact, the MWB idea evolved and developed over time as we and other colleagues worked with managers who were frustrated with their organizations' performance and wanted to drive real and sustainable change while delivering concrete bottom-line impact. Consider some of the quotes you will come across later in this book—these are taken directly from senior managers before they embarked on their MWB journeys:
"We were a group of talented people producing mediocre results. The potential to do much, much better was there."
"We had too many priorities—everything was important. Everyone was overwhelmed and heading in a different direction. It made no sense. It finally dawned on us—too many priorities meant no priorities."
"We had so-called priorities like 'innovate more,' which meant almost nothing. It was more a slogan than anything else. We needed to create real ownership of a few key priorities that would bring us the passion, focus, risk-taking, and entrepreneurship that we needed. Business as usual would not get us there."
"We were too academic; we tried to make things perfect instead of making decisions. We were great at debates. Analysis drove out action."
"We were a group of individuals in silos, not a team. There was no openness and even less trust. I had to break the prevailing mind set."
"We were too internally focused, always talking about what we could and could not do. We need to concentrate on what we need to do to win in our markets and get on with it."
As we worked with these executives, we all realized that to dramatically increase the performance of their businesses, they needed to manage two things. First, they had to identify and win the right battles. No question about that. To identify the right battles, rigorous disciplined analysis is crucial. But to win the battles, many organizations need to create a more effective top team and build an organization that was less silo-based and capable of focusing all of its energy and capabilities on the chosen battles. That transformation could not happen overnight. So, that is why we call it the MWB journey—it was apparent from the beginning that if executives treated it as a short-term "flavor of the month" initiative it would be a complete waste of time and energy.
And then came our first major debate. Should we, or should we not, simultaneously address the intellectual thinking—hard strategy stuff—with the softer, more emotional elements of leadership and team building? Some executives argued to keep them separate—strategy first, team building later. Others wanted to do them together. Over time, we came to agree with the latter.
Before writing this book, each of us had been thoroughly immersed in the classic Harvard Business School approach to strategy, focusing on rigorous analysis of industry environments and company capabilities and employing a variety of frameworks to ensure the best fit between the company, its strategy, and its changing environment. We were influenced by the approaches of authors such as Michael Porter, Gary Hamel, and C.K. Prahalad. We also followed closely the work of strategy consulting firms, such as the Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey. However, while the consultants (and the academics!) grew and prospered, all too often their elegant analytical models did not produce the intended results.
In frustration, we increasingly examined the growing body of work on leadership and high-performing teams. Again, we were not happy. The "great man" theories of visionary leadership did not match with the reality we saw in the companies that we were working with, and many of the team-based concepts seemed, at the risk of caricature, to argue that "if we feel good about each other, everything will work out for the best." Like the hard strategy concepts, these much softer people-related ideas seemed to be "necessary but not sufficient" to drive high-level performance.
So we became sympathetic to the executives who argued that "hard" and "soft" concepts must be confronted together. A great team without a sense of direction goes nowhere. A great strategy with no commitment does no better. And without strong, authentic leadership at many levels of an organization, even both together do not suffice.
And we made a clear choice: all three elements must be combined. We had to encourage executives to follow a must-win battle process that would simultaneously lead a group of managers to make tough strategic choices, develop that group into a team, and also develop leadership capabilities among team members so they could effectively cascade the initiative throughout their organization. This made the task more challenging, but also more likely to lead to success.
The diagram illustrates our belief that leadership principles, team building principles, and strategy concepts all need to simultaneously influence your must-win battle process.
Keep this diagram in mind as you read the rest of this book. It has been our touchstone, and it also explains why a must-win battle journey presents a multi-dimensional challenge. For even as you and your team pick the battles, you need to be thinking about who will lead them and how the organization will need to behave to win these battles. You cannot just pick the battles first and figure out how to win them later.
The bigger message is that embarking on a must-win battle journey will, in all probability, lead to major changes in your organization and the leadership capabilities of your top people. As one senior leader put it: We began by winning battles; we ended by transforming our organization.
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