Strategy That Works

Strategy That Works, our new book on how winning companies close the strategy-to-execution gap

Based on new research, the book Strategy That Works reveals five practices for closing the strategy-to-execution gap used by today’s winning companies. Packed with tools executives can use for building these five practices into their organization, it is a powerful guide to connecting where enterprises aim to go and what they can accomplish.  

“Many companies have fallen victim to the trap of pursuing growth at all costs. Driving shareholder returns requires a different mindset, which the authors have succinctly captured.”
Andrew Clyde
President and CEO, Murphy USA Inc.
“In an increasingly complex world, Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi make a compelling case for sustained business success via simplification and focus. Linking strategy and execution through a set of differentiating and coherent capabilities is a winning idea, making Strategy That Works a fresh and inspiring read to help answer today’s leadership challenges.”
Benno Dorer
CEO, The Clorox Company
“In a refreshingly pragmatic guide, Leinwand and Mainardi describe how senior leaders can bridge the gap between strategy development, execution, and delivery of results.”
Neil C. McArthur
CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board, Arcadis NV
“Leinwand and Mainardi have laid out a playbook for executives to close the ‘strategy-to-execution’ gap, lighting a path for businesses that want to become more profitable and more influential, and delivering invaluable insight for CEOs who aspire to be ‘supercompetitors.’”
Eric A. Spiegel
President and CEO, Siemens Corporation
Strategy That Works provides a clear and compelling framework for executives to use in developing a cohesive and effective strategic vision. It provides a behind-the-scenes look at the characteristics of unconventional leadership and the importance of culture and identity as foundational components of a strong corporate strategy. Using tangible examples, this book presents the transformational journey that companies across all industries have undergone to remain successful and relevant in the twenty-first century.”
Mark T. Bertolini
Chairman and CEO, Aetna
“Any successful large enterprise must remain entrepreneurial, changing as needed to continue to do pioneering work. It must strike the right balance between openness to change and having a powerful, long-lasting core identity. Strategy That Works shows how to bring these two contrasting ideas together.”
Zhang Ruimin
Chairman and CEO, Haier Group
“Leinwand and Mainardi show you how to transform your value proposition into real results.”
Marshall Goldsmith
author, New York Times #1 bestselling Triggers and global bestsellers MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
“Strategy is all about making clear plans and sticking to them. Yet organizations get easily distracted. This great new book explains how to gain coherence across an organization in strategy setting and execution.”
Sally Blount
Dean, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
Strategy That Works is simple and astonishing at the same time. Coherence is a critical ingredient for success, but it is so difficult to find such coherence in organizations. This book will help you think about whether your organization is really aligned with your strategy: from the company’s value proposition to its distinctive capabilities to the products and services it provides.”
Alessandro Carlucci
former CEO, Natura
“A great book! Strategy That Works demonstrates how capabilities shape successful markets, enable winning companies, and sustain on-target execution. The case for capabilities-driven strategy strengthens with every turn of the page.”
Karim Michel Sabbagh
President and CEO, SES
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Winning companies don’t follow conventional wisdom.
They apply 5 acts of unconventional leadership that allow them to close the strategy-to-execution gap.

  • 1Commit to
    an identity
    Commit to an identity
    read more >
  • 2Translate
    the strategic
    into the
    Translate the strategic into the everyday
    read more >
  • 3Put your
    culture to
    Put your culture to work
    read more >
  • 4Cut costs
    to grow
    Cut costs to grow stronger
    read more >
  • 5Shape your
    Shape your future
    read more >

Commit to an identity

Conventional wisdom might lead a company to focus on growth, looking for revenue wherever it seems most available. But the unconventional companies we have studied commit to an identity. They focus their efforts on developing a solid value proposition and building distinctive capabilities that will last for the long term. Then they are flexible within that context, moving rapidly into new competitive arenas at times, but only into those where their identity makes them well-equipped to win.

Tools to help you apply this act:

  • This test is meant to be taken in a small group. Talk through the answers to these questions and identify potential sources of incoherence in your company.
  • This short profiler will help diagnose how coherent your company is and how well it is positioned for success.
  • This tool shows the most frequently encountered generic ways of creating value. These basic value propositions can be combined to reflect the more complex value proposition that will lead your company to success.
  • This exercise will help you test whether a given value proposition may give your company a right to win.

Translate the strategic into the everyday

Many business people assume that the best way to build capabilities is to adopt the best practices of an industry or develop functional excellence, but companies with a strategy that works believe otherwise. They translate the strategic into the everyday. They design and build their own bespoke capabilities that set them apart from other companies and allow them to live their identity. Then they bring those capabilities to scale in their own distinctive ways.

Tools to help you apply this act:

Put your culture to work

A business leader might seek to solve performance problems by making structural changes: reworking the org chart and rethinking incentives. The culture of the enterprise, if considered at all, is often seen as a hindrance. But companies that close the strategy-to-execution gap do it differently. They put their culture to work. They recognize the power of the ingrained patterns of thinking and behavior in their company, and they tap that power to execute their strategy and foster performance.

Cut costs to grow stronger

A more conventional company might try to reduce costs across the board by going lean everywhere and spreading investments across a wide range of promising opportunities. But the unconventional companies we studied cut costs to grow stronger. They marshal their resources in a more strategic way, doubling down on the few capabilities that matter most to their long-term success and pruning back to the minimum everything else.

Tools to help you apply this act:

Shape your future

Finally, companies that make their strategy work are not trying to become agile. They don’t respond to external change as rapidly as possible. Instead, they shape their future by creating the change they want to see. They use their distinctive edge to gain privileged access to customers and do mergers and acquisitions to recreate their business environment on their own terms.

Tools to help you apply this act:

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Strategy That Works Profiler

Find out in 5 minutes whether your company has a strategy that works. This short survey will help diagnose whether your organization is positioned to successfully close the strategy-to-execution gap.

start the profiler >

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Featured research

We studied 14 iconic companies to learn what they do to close the strategy-to-execution gap – how they create value for customers, what few capabilities allow them to do so in a way that others cannot, and what products and services thrive in their unique capabilities system. Here are some of the companies we researched:

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