To be truly competitive, C.E.O.'s and their top leadership teams must not only outexecute their rivals, they must also outthink them. The team at the top must understand the dynamics of the business environment better than any of their challengers and they must use that understanding to craft strategies, create internal structures and governance relationships sufficient to excel in the markets and marketplaces of the world. They must also continually find new ways to add value. In this era of hyper-competition, fast-paced change and continuous reorganization, excellence is not in the wrists, it is a mental game.
One way to outthink competitors is to outlearn them, to paraphrase M.I.T.'s Peter Senge. There are, of course, a myriad of ways to learn, as every student knows. In business it can be fostered by examining a situation that confronts a company and by pondering cases taken from firms that have been in similar straits. It can also be done by examining the data and findings of talented researchers and academics. And it can be achieved by engaging on the level of theory. But in each case, real learning takes place when old, outdated assumptions are challenged and laid to rest.
The aim of Strategy & Business is to challenge old assumptions not by telling C.E.O.'s what to think--a rather dubious endeavor--but by laying out an agenda covering which issues are worthy of thought. To do that, Strategy & Business will publish articles from the leading thinkers of our time. Contributors will come from academia, business, consulting firms and from research centers around the world. It will be aided by Booz-Allen & Hamilton's own research efforts. The articles will be practical, but will also nudge, prod and provoke. They will be required reading for leaders.
But as every C.E.O. knows, agendas change with the times. Some issues rise to the forefront while others slip out of sight. And some issues bloom perennially. "The C.E.O. Agenda" will be a periodic feature of this publication. In this issue, Brian N. Dickie, president of Booz-Allen's Worldwide Commercial Business and a senior client officer in the firm's Financial Services Group, examines the current C.E.O. Agenda. The article, which is based on surveys of C.E.O.'s, discussions with major clients and an examination of the work the firm is doing with its major clients, posits that while cutting costs is always an important issue, the forefront topics for C.E.O.'s have shifted to managing for growth, implementing the next generation of business process redesign and creating the new organization. According to Mr. Dickie, "to capture differentiated growth, C.E.O.'s need to foster new and enhanced capabilities and attitudes within their organizations." One of those capabilities is innovation.
One tenet of business has been that if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it. But the authors of "The Performance Management System: Turning Strategies Into Results," take that notion several steps further. In that article John K. Shank, a professor at the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth College and the author of 13 books, Walter G, Jewett, Jr., a senior-vice president at Booz · Allen's Financial Services Group in New York, and the author of several important studies on banking, and Paul A. Branstad, a senior-vice president in the firm's Engineering and Manufacturing Group in Chicago, and one of its senior strategists, argue that good management means managing the drivers that produce change, and not the results themselves. The Performance Management system, which the authors and a Booz · Allen research team developed, uses an enterprise model to support decision making in the short to medium term.
One problem with turning strategies into results can be found in the way companies market their brands. In "Dismantling the Brandocracy," Sam I. Hill, a vice president in Booz-Allen's Marketing Group in Chicago, David L. Newkirk, a senior-vice president in the Marketing Group in London, and Wayne Henderson, a senior associate in Sydney, write that "in many brand-based companies, the marketing department is fast becoming irrelevant." Using case examples, the authors document the way that marketing is changing by tailoring offerings to more directly meet customers' needs.
The next person you hire may be an Intelligent Agent, writes Lawrence M. Fisher, a technology reporter for The New York Times and other publications. What are intelligent agents? They are programs designed to sift through mountains of data in order to extract the information you need. Customized applications of this new technology could be a boon to business. In the article Mr. Fisher analyzes the best ways to employ workers whose identities consist entirely of the ones and zeros of the computer code.
Some companies have a knack for going global in the right way. In "Global Cosmopolitans," an excerpt from the new book, "World Class: Thriving Locally in the Global Economy," Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor at the Harvard Business School, examines the case of the Gillette Company. Most notably, she analyzes the way Gillette introduces products globally and how it makes decisions. The way the company arrived at its innovative methods has enabled it to succeed globally.
Few business thinkers are as well known around the world as Charles Handy, the subject of this issue's "Thought Leader" interview. In the interview, Mr. Handy develops the provocative concept of the "membership organization," which is an organization well-suited to achieving today's dual goals of high performance and high commitment.
Joel Kurtzman, Editor
Joel Kurtzman is editor-in-chief of Strategy+Business.