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Discovery-Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity Hardcover – March 16, 2009
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The book, Discovery Driven Growth, distills the lessons McGrath and MacMillan have learned working with dozens of companies like ours into a practical, useful and easy to follow bible for organizations intent on driving growth and renewal, but reluctant to take on big risks in doing so. Our experiences are described in the book, as are applications of the book in companies as diverse as Nokia, Microsoft, IBM and small entrepreneurial ventures. One of the things I like best about the book is that it operates at both the strategic level and the level of individual initiatives. As a CEO or senior team member, you can use its concepts to think through the broader questions of strategic direction and portfolio resource allocation that must be determined at the top of the organization. As a Division head, you can use the disciplines to make decisions consistently and with a strong basis of facts (where there are facts) and good assumptions (where the data don't yet exist). As a project leader or someone directing an uncertain venture, the book contains detailed tools and templates that you can apply immediately, supported with downloadable software that is available on the web site to get you up to speed quickly. I also appreciated that the book discussed the implementation and ongoing leadership challenges that face innovation leaders, pointing out that no two companies will implement these techniques the same way and providing examples of how firms have done it.
Had "Discovery Driven Growth" been available when Air Products started its innovation thrust, we could have moved even faster to drive our growth trajectory. In today's uncertain times, we need the kind of fresh thinking and new tools that the book provides. You won't regret buying it.
Readers will especially appreciate McGrath and MacMillan's brilliant use of reader-friendly devices, including self-diagnostics, check-lists, figures, and tables, to identify key points. For example, a "Simple quiz to find your openness to discovery-driven growth " (Table 1-1,Page 9), several processes that can help executives to plan their firms' growth during the first steps of DDP (Pages 11-13), and "Conventional versus discovery-driven growth" (Table 1-2, Page 13) in Chapter One. McGrath and MacMillan make equally effective use of BioBarrier, a disguised version of a corporate growth project at a major corporation that illustrates both the perils and the possibilities of DDP. This material serves, in effect, as a hypothetical test case but, again, McGrath and MacMillan cleverly include the aforementioned reader-friendly devices such as the "Initial frame for BioBarrier project" (Table 4-1, Page 83), "BareBones specification for BioBarrier project (million dollars)" (Figure 4-1, Page 87), and "Steady rate expectation profile" (Figure 4-2, Page 88). It should also be noted that McGrath and MacMillan suggest "Action Steps" at the conclusion of most of the ten chapters.
In Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson suggest that, untilnow , research and executive education have failed to make a breakthrough in understanding and improving IT architecture efforts. They then recall Albert Einstein's observation, "The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them." What do the authors recommend? "The focus needs to be higher - on [in italics] enterprise architecture [end italics], the organizing logic for core business processes and IT infrastructure reflecting the standardization and integration of a company's operating model...[Therefore] enterprise architecture boils down to these two concepts: business process integration and business process standardization. In short, enterprise architecture is not an IT issue - it's a business issue." In Chapter Five, when suggesting how to design the business model architecture, McGrath and MacMillan seem to agree with Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson that a specific project not only can but should be evaluated within an overall strategic framework the foundation and "the fundamental architecture of a discovery-driven plan is established with the selection of a business unit that will drive the revenue and profits of the business."
In my review of their previous collaboration, MarketBusters (2005), I noted that "the core of this book involves five strategies to create "marketbusters": Transform the customers' experience, transform your offerings, redefine profit drivers, exploit industry shifts, and consider entering (for you) new markets. No news there. The value of this book is derived from McGrath and MacMillan's explanations of (a) HOW to select the strategies which are most appropriate to your organization's current and imminent needs and (b) WHAT to do when coordinating those strategies with tactics (or `moves') during the implementation process." They urge those who read Discovery-Driven Growth to consult the list in the earlier book or visit [...] to complete an exercise that identifies the key metrics that are most relevant to their own industry. In my opinion, the selection of appropriate metrics and then applying them with seamless consistency is of critical importance to any growth initiatives.
Once these initiatives are launched and begin to achieve measurable progress, how to sustain them while - meanwhile - making necessary modifications, except of the metrics? McGrath and MacMillan devote the final chapter to answering that question. To set the context within which everyone involved will pursue and commit to discovery-driven behavior, they suggest six sets of actions to be taken by the CEO and other members of the senior team. They conclude their book with an expressed hope that the information and counsel they provide will give C-level executives the processes needed to "free up the creativity" in their organization "without "going down the black hole of undisciplined innovation"; to give a division or business unit head some ideas to consider about formulating and then implementing a "stealth" strategy for bringing discovery-driven principles to bear; and to provide to a less experienced manager some techniques to help them think "more sharply and with more discipline about the things that [their] bosses are worried about." I share these fervent hopes as well as the last: "And for the entrepreneur in many of us, discovery-given growth can provide road map to a successful business future. Best of luck."
Congratulations to Rita Gunther McGrath and Ian MacMillan on their brilliant achievement. They invite their readers to check out the resources at [...]