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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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