Breakthroughs – How Great Companies Achieve Them

I had the privilege of listening to Bill Davidson on the topic of
Breakthroughs – How Great Companies Set Outrageous
Objectives and Achieve them
“. It was an excellent presentation summarizing the book by the same title. The presentation was absorbing, energetic and thought-provoking. The identification of the Customer Experience as one of the key areas for achieving Breakthroughs using the Country-Wide Credit case study will remain etched into my memory forever. Brilliant. I subsequently read the book as well. Overall, its an excellent book. As is typical of such books there are several interesting case studies on companies like American Standard, ADP etc. Bill has detailed a well-formulated framework for accomplishing breakthroughs. Some observations:
1. Bill praises Focus as one of the key aspects of Breakthroughs, but contradicts that with case studies like Vons, a pioneering retailer that first implemented checkout scanners and
went on to diversify into direct marketing businesses.
In my experience also, I would say, most of the success
has come within my organization when teams were focused on something. However, I think Focus should not be at the expense of Peripheral Vision. Think about what would happen if Apple
focused on Computers and did not introduce the game-changing iPod that has put Apple back on the path of dominance. What if Big Blue focused on computers and missed the boat on Solutions/Services which now forms over 50% of IBM’s revenues. Perhaps a better model is Clayton Christensen’s brilliant
2-pronged approach of Deliberate and Emergent Strategy.
Focus is important in the Deliberate Strategy prong but
experimentation/innovation is important in the Emergent Strategy prong. Christensen describes this approach in his book Innovator’s Solution. A must-read book. Although this is Christensen’s second book on this topic, I found this book to have a better, sounder framework than the first one.
2. I also liked another observation that Bill makes about
Clayton Christensen’s idea of creating a separate and independent
organization to work on breakthroughs as a flawed
approach. Bill calls this the Exogenous approach (nice usage). Eventhough, I consider Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma is probably one of the all-time great management books, I share the same opinion as Bill on this aspect. I found that Christensen’s usage of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) Browser and IBM’s PC as case studies in support of the Exogenous approach is fundamentally flawed. In my humble opinion, Microsoft’s IE and IBM’s PC were the biggest strategic blunders that a market leader could make, not because of the introduction of the products per se which they had to. The blunder was a direct result of the manner in which they chose to do it, via a separate and independent organization. More on this later.