Turning Great Strategy into Great Performance
Three years ago, the leadership team at a major manufacturer spent months developing a new strategy for its European business. Over the prior half-decade, six new competitors had entered the market, each deploying the latest in low-cost manufacturing technology and slashing prices to gain market share. The performance of the European unit—once the crown jewel of the company’s portfolio—had deteriorated to the point that top management was seriously considering divesting it. To turn around the operation, the unit’s leadership team had recommended a bold new “solutions strategy”—one that would leverage the business’s installed base to fuel growth in after-market services and equipment financing. The financial forecasts were exciting—the strategy promised to restore the business’s industry-leading returns and growth. Impressed, top management quickly approved the plan, agreeing to provide the unit with all the resources it needed to make the turnaround a reality. Today, however, the unit’s performance is nowhere near what its management team had projected. Returns, while better than before, remain well below the company’s cost of capital. The revenues and profits that managers had expected from services and financing have not materialized, and the business’s cost position still lags behind that of its major competitors. At the conclusion of a recent half-day review of the business’s strategy and performance, the unit’s general manager remained steadfast and vowed to press on. “It’s all about execution,” she declared. “The strategy we’re pursuing is the right one. We’re just not delivering the numbers. All we need to do is work harder, work smarter.” The parent company’s CEO was not so sure. He wondered: Could the unit’s lackluster performance have more to do with a mistaken strategy than poor execution? More important, what should he do to get better performance out of the unit? Should he do as the general manager...
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