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 / Winter 2006 / Issue 45(originally published by Booz & Company)


Best Business Books: Strategy

Mr. Hardy believes that the key operational objective of any growth-based initiative is to create a much better value proposition, as seen through the eyes of customers, than competitors provide. To achieve that objective, he recommends focusing on five elements of a “core value proposition”: the core idea, the benefits for customers, the target market, the desired perception (“How do we want to be perceived by customers, employees, and suppliers?”), and the reward. As few business writers seem to do, he understands that “what’s in it for us” will be different for owners, employees, partners, and shareholders. He then describes a framework, called a “focus funnel,” that helps decision makers choose among alternatives. Select your five most powerful ideas first, then pick the three most powerful for customers, and finally the single most attractive core value proposition.

Mr. Hardy is a self-professed “marketing guy” who started out at Young & Rubicam and IMC, and later served as marketing director and then CEO of the Western hemisphere for Colgate-Palmolive. His little, self-published book is a compilation of his experience, powerful in its brevity and clarity. It is obviously intended to be primarily a handbook, guiding managers and entrepreneurs to conceive and execute a single, powerful idea successfully. It is not a comprehensive strategy book, but to be fair, Mr. Hardy didn’t set out to write one. What he has done is provide a powerful set of tools for addressing the conceptual “what?” of business model innovation. His advice is also consistent with our own experience. For example, his focus funnel demonstrates the limits of brainstorming. The individual ideas produced in a brainstorm are seldom powerful enough to be the core of a successful integration; it’s the post-brainstorm refinement and synthesis of the concepts that germinate powerful core value propositions.

The Growth Gamble, 10 Rules, and The Core Value Proposition provide complementary guidance. For corporate managers trying to satisfy investors’ demands for growth, The Growth Gamble focuses on answering “what to grow?” The Core Value Proposition goes into further detail, explicating “how to decide what?” (think of it as “how to make a seed”). And then 10 Rules guides managers in the details needed to charter and learn from new business experiments — how to keep them growing. Planting a new business does not mean it will grow. These books show how to go beyond mere commitment into the kind of strategically driven cultivation that yields profit and revenue growth in the end.

Author Profiles:

Chuck Lucier ([email protected]) is senior vice president emeritus of Booz Allen Hamilton. He is currently writing a book and consulting on strategy issues with selected clients. For Mr. Lucier’s latest publications, see

Jan Dyer ([email protected]) works in partnership with Chuck Lucier at She is an alumnus of Booz Allen Hamilton, where she spent 11 years consulting with corporations in a variety of industries.
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