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The Essential Advantage: How to Win with a Capabilities-Driven Strategy Hardcover – December 9, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (December 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422136515
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422136515
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #251,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Named by strategy+business magazine as one of the Best Business Books of 2011.

“Few companies achieve a capabilities-driven “right to win” in their markets. This book will help your firm be among them.” - Consulting Magazine

About the Author

Paul Leinwand is a Partner in Booz & Company's global consumer, media, and retail practice. He serves as chair of the firm's Marketing Advisory Council. Cesare Mainardi is Managing Director of Booz & Company's North American business and is a member of the firm's Executive Committee. In 2005, Consulting magazine named him in its Top 25 Consultants list.

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Customer Reviews

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The authors propose a process for an organization to make strategic choices.
John Gibbs
This is fine and the references are a sign of good scholarship and anchoring the reader back to other proven ideas.
Mark P. McDonald
This business book is well worth the read, helping to identify what can really help a business succeed or fail.
Brandon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By John Gibbs TOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A "coherent company" is one that is resolutely focused about its "way to play", its most distinctive capabilities, and its product and service portfolio, according to this book by Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi. When all three of these elements are in sync with each other and with the right external markets, the company can claim the "right to win" in the contests that matter over time.

Most companies are not fully coherent because they do not have a clearly defined capabilities-driven strategy. In response to market demands and opportunities, they start offering products and services which are not a good fit with their core capabilities, and this leads to incoherence and ultimately to reduced profitability.

The authors propose a process for an organization to make strategic choices. First, discover the available choices through market investigations; next, assess each "way to play" or market positioning option, and what capabilities are required for each to succeed; then, choose a direction, a single way to play and a capabilities system as the basis of the ongoing strategy; then, set out to transform the organization by building and deploying the necessary capabilities and divesting the unnecessary ones; and finally, evolve into an organization that can stay coherent over time.

The Boston Consulting Group Matrix divides a company's businesses into stars, cows, dogs and question marks, depending on market share and market growth. However, many companies have not found the BCG recommendations (milk the cows to fund the stars while divesting the dogs) to be entirely realistic.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rudra Chatterjee on November 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Essential Advantage" follows the book "Cut Costs - Grow Stronger" but really expands the scope to demonstrate how identifying, honing and applying your business capabilities not only is the right way to cut costs, but also the best way to approach growth strategies and M&A. This book has been revelatory to my business, because it identifies that the steps I am now taking to reduce costs and restructuring the key business streams can later be expanded while contemplating growth opportunities. Theoretically, the book does have some parallels to "Competition Demystified" by Greenwald, but given the author's deep business experience, it is a more actionable and broader study of business strategy. I read the Kindle edition of the book and am excited to put these thoughts to work.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sean Smith on February 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this thought provoking book, Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi argue that the essential advantage in business is coherence, all other forms of advantage that a business can enjoy are transitory, and provide their prescription for how a business can become strategically coherent.

In order for a business to become strategically coherent three factors need to come together, according to Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi.

1. A business must have a clear way to play i.e. a considered approach for creating and capturing value in a particular market, in a way that differentiates it.

2. A business must have three to six mutually reinforcing capabilities i.e. a capability is the ability to reliably deliver a specified outcome that is relevant to the business.

3. A businesses products and service must fit its capabilities and way to play.

In essence, a strategically coherent business identifies its underlying value creation mechanism (i.e. what it does best) and the opportunities to meet the market effectively, and makes a choice that fits them both together into a coherent strategic position.

Companies that are strategically coherent reap a coherence premium in four specific, observable, ways.

1. Effectiveness: a renewed emphasis on, and continuous improvement of, their most relevant capabilities.

2. Efficiency: they obtain more value from their products and services, as they apply their capabilities across their products and services.

3. Focused investment: more efficient use of the businesses resources, attention and time i.e. the business spends more of its effort where it is needed the most.

4. Alignment: the business commits to a strategy and articulates it clearly.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Essential Advantage is a good business book, providing a different perspective on strategy, corporate development and business operations. The book ostensibly is about being capabilities driven organization, but in reality the books main theme is coherence rather than capabilities. Its central argument is that firms who are, in the author's words, 'resolutely focused and clear minded about their market position, distinctive capabilities and product and service portfolio' will outperform those that are not.

The authors use the idea of coherence to revisit major enterprise decisions ranging from corporate development to cost cutting and M&A. The book is filled with solid advice based on this idea that you need to stick with what you are good with. Recommended reading, but not drop everything and read this book, which is what someone told me to do.

This book is really about coherence and not about capability, so people looking for an update on how to apply resource based theories of competition will be misled by the title. The authors do talk a bit about capabilities and resources, but that is only as a path to achieve coherence. The principle framework is about coherence and how you align "the way you play" (read go to market) with your products and services with your capability system (read operations). I can understand that is hard to write a book, whose basic advice is be consistent and coherence, but that is the fundamental advice throughout the book.

The book is divided into four parts along the major lines of coherence.

Part 1 provides evidence that coherent companies - those with greater focus - perform better than their peers.
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