Triggers That Pull Companies

Since Cesare Mainardi and I published Strategy That Works: How Winning Companies Close the Strategy-to-Execution Gap (Harvard Business Press, 2016), a lot of businesspeople have told us that they feel too far removed from the companies we heralded in the book. After all, our examples of highly distinctive and successful companies focused on iconic brands like Apple, Amazon, Frito-Lay, IKEA, Lego, Natura, and Starbucks. Each of the companies we profiled had succeeded in building capabilities that gave them a winning edge. And they were coherent: They applied those capabilities to every product and service and to the overall way they created value. This gave the companies powerful identities that no one else could copy.

While it may feel daunting to follow their example, we believe that any company can do the same. The five acts highlighted in the book — commit to an identity, translate the strategic into the everyday, put your culture to work, cut costs to grow stronger, and shape your future — add up to a path of development that a growing number of businesses have followed, and that leads to a compelling, consistent level of growth and performance.

When we discuss these ideas with business leaders across regions and industries, one question often comes up: How can we get started? We know it’s not easy to begin. In fact, with every one of the highly capable companies we studied, the leaders of the company pulled a “trigger” — a signal, loud and clear, of the need for change. The leaders thus pushed their companies to abandon conventional wisdom and build the long-lasting, capabilities-based advantage they needed. These triggers are available to you as well; you can use them to generate the confidence (and sometimes the desperation) needed to invest everything in developing a strategy that works.