In this week's reviews of great business books: how to eliminate whack-a-mole management in the age of disruption; and why values-driven achievements are of primary importance. Also, a classic tool for getting a balanced view of your company's performance.

Zone to Win: Organizing to Compete in an Age of Disruption
Geoffrey A. Moore
Diversion Books

Entrepreneurs first met Geoffrey Moore a quarter century ago when he published Crossing the Chasm, about the diffusion of disruptive products to larger and more mainstream audiences. Now, just in time for the NFL playoffs, Moore is back with a gridiron-themed playbook for companies anxious to avoid the kinds of perils that hobbled one-time innovators like Lotus and Blackberry.

Zone to Win--which emerged from work Moore did with Salesforce.com, Microsoft and other companies--lays out strategies for both offensive and defensive responses to new opportunities.

"On the one hand, you must maintain your established franchises for the life of their respective business models, adjusting to declining revenue growth by optimizing for increasing earnings growth," writes Moore. "At the same time, every decade or so you must get your company into one new line of business that has exceptionally high revenue growth."

Moore divvies businesses into zones such as "performance" (product and sales folks charged with making the number) and "transformation" (disruptors growing an R&D initiative to the point where it comprises 10 percent of revenue.) The zone model prevents conflicts of interest and promotes prioritization in companies with multiple product lines at different stages of maturity.

For startups, Chasm is still the more relevant title. But Zone is a preview of how to operate once you're keeping your eye on more than one ball.

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Primary Greatness: The 12 Levers of Success
Stephen R. Covey
Simon & Schuster

Stephen R. Covey was a prolific business thinker and writer who produced 13 books (most famously The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and hundreds of articles. Primary Greatness--released four years after the author's death--could also have been called "The Essential Covey." This essay anthology is an excellent introduction to Covey's seminal ideas on major business subjects, especially individual leadership and organizational development.

But the book is also a meditation on the nature of individual achievement. In the forward, the author's son Sean Covey explains the distinction this way: "Primary greatness is who you really are-your character, integrity, your deepest motives and desires. Secondary greatness is popularity, title, position, fame, fortune, and honors."

Primary greatness, Covey taught his son, is what truly matters. The "levers" required to achieve it include integrity, contribution, sacrifice, loyalty, responsibility and renewal. After spending some time with Covey, you may want to revise those New Year's resolutions.

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And from the backlist:

The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action
Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton
Harvard Business Review Press (1996)

Imagine trying to drive a vehicle in rush hour traffic while wearing a blindfold. That's how many business leaders felt more than 25 years ago.

Kaplan (then a professor at Harvard Business School) and Norton (then CEO of Renaissance Solutions) recognized an urgent need for more reliable financial performance measurement. They devised the Balanced Scorecard (BSC), a tool that serves as "the central organizing framework for important managerial processes" including individual and team goal setting, compensation, resource allocation, budgeting and planning, and strategic feedback and learning.

"Organizations are competing in complex environments to achieve their financial objectives," write Kaplan and Norton. That requires "an accurate understanding of their goals and the methods for attaining these goals."

It was true then. It's true now.

Published on: Jan 6, 2016
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