The new leader's guide to diagnosing the business

Harv Bus Rev. 2008 Feb;86(2):62-73, 135.


Incoming CEOs and general managers don't have much time to show what they can do to improve a business's performance. (In 2006, for instance, about 40% of CEOs who left their jobs had lasted an average of just 1.8 years--and many of them were ushered out the door.) Within a few years at most, leaders must find ways to boost profitability, increase market share, overtake a competitor--whatever the key tasks may be. But they can't map out specific objectives and initiatives until they have accurately assessed their companies' distinctive strengths and weaknesses and the particular threats and opportunities they face. In this article, Bain consultants Gottfredson, Schaubert, and Saenz provide a diagnostic template to help organizations figure all that out so they can decide which goals are reasonable and where to focus performance-improvement efforts. The template is built on four widely accepted principles. First, costs and prices almost always decline; second, your competitive position determines your options; third, customers and profit pools don't stand still; and fourth, simplicity gets results. Along with each principle, the authors offer diagnostic questions and analytic tools. Of course, each manager will emphasize certain elements of the template and de-emphasize others, based on his or her business situation. This process will show incoming CEOs and general managers where they are starting from (their point of departure) and help them establish their performance objectives (their point of arrival) as well as the change initiatives that will take them where they want to go.

MeSH terms

  • Administrative Personnel
  • Commerce / economics
  • Commerce / organization & administration
  • Economic Competition
  • Efficiency, Organizational*
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Management Audit / organization & administration*
  • Quality Control
  • United States