September 12, 2008
Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - The Breakthrough Imperative
Bain & Company have produced some of the best books coming out of consulting industry over the last decade. Chris Zook's trilogy--Profit from the Core, Beyond the Core, and Unstoppable--is a treatise on the benefits of strategic focus in any organization. Fred Reichheld simplified customer surveying and satisfaction metrics with The Ultimate Question, and Chairman Orit Gadiesh shared experiences from Bain Capital in Lessons from Private Equity Any Company Can Use. Somehow, though, we missed one.
In March, Collins Business published The Breakthrough Imperative by Bain partners Mark Gottfredson & Steve Schaubert. The neutral title and lack of media attention caused most (including ourselves) to miss this book and this review is our way of going back and rectifying that.
The authors believe there are four laws that great managers use to diagnose a business and plot a successful course. The first law, "Costs and Prices Always Decline," is a lesson familiar from college economics classes, but not one you normally associate with management. "Competitive Position Determines Your Options" is reminscint of Porter's Five Forces but goes further to define the realistic options for a company given its place in the market. The third law is a cornerstone Bain concept, "Customer and Profit Pools Don't Stand Still," stressing the emphasis on net income potential versus indiscriminately capturing sales and gaining market share.
The final law is the most surprising: "Simplicity Gets Results." "Keep it simple" is a message we appreciate in the communications and manufacturing processes, but often overlook in corporate strategy. The temptation is to offer whatever customization the customer requests. Bain's research finds that this is a mistake. Looking at industries ranging from aerospace to fast-food, Bain found the companies with the least complex offerings (i.e. less items on the restaurant menu) grew 30% to 50% faster than the average and 80% to 100% faster than the companies with the most complex offerings.
The Breakthrough Imperative reads like a mainstream business book with writing that is clear and concise, but the described analysis you'll find plays to the MBA crowd. The book is best read by managers with profit and loss responsibilities (or those soon hope to obtain those responsibilities). But, we are reviewing The Breakthrough Imperative to encourage others to take a chance and expose themselves to new ideas that will help them compete and grow business.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.