BOOKCASE : The Breakthrough Imperative – How the Best Managers Get Outstanding Results

• Mark Gottfredson and Steve Schaubert

• Collins

• RRP $44.99

About 40 percent of America’s senior managers leave office within two years of landing top job. The median tenure of chief executive is now just little over five years.
US magazine Business Week wrote in 2007: “The brutal reality is that executives have less time than ever to prove their worth.” No question, the same demand for fast-fix performance is happening here too.
What to do about it? Two long-time partners at management consultancy Bain & Company think they, with some help from consultancy friends, have the answer. They spent 20 years analysing the results of more than 1500 interviews with successful and not-so-successful enterprises and executives to discover how general managers can achieve “breakthrough results” when running business.
There are, the authors argue, two keys to enhanced individual performance. Successful managers understand the fundamental laws of business and see things others don’t or won’t even consider. They avoid the mistakes that trap even the best leaders. And they spot clear performance improvement path and go for it.
The authors then set out to identify how and why some managers get better results more quickly than others. Their research suggested “a striking common­ality” in the way successful general managers approach their job. “Like engineers designing mission to Mars, they understand and apply the basic laws that govern what they do. Using those basics, they map out where they are starting from, where they are going, and how they plan to get there. And then they actually do it.”
But successful managers must abide by, and understand the importance of, four fundamental laws of superior performance. Some of the concepts embraced by these laws have been around for some time but, say the authors, they are frequently misunderstood or misused. Most managers forget them while business schools, for some reason, pay them only “cursory attention”.
• Law 1: Costs and prices always decline – the more often task is done, the less it should cost to do it.
• Law 2: Competitive position determines options – make choices about which levers to pull to improve performance.
• Law 3: Customers and profit pools don’t stand still – smart managers try to protect existing pools and capture new ones. So do competitors.
• Law 4: Simplicity gets results – great managers keep it simple.
These laws are not prescriptions. They are descriptions of the way business works. Well researched, soundly reasoned, practical and, while tad dry, easy to comprehend. thoroughly helpful management tool. For those struggling to keep up with director demands for higher performance, it might become an imperative.

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