Procter & Gamble: The Common Mistakes of a Leader

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Brendan Byrnes: Wow. That's one example of things that leaders do right. How about taking a look at the other end of the spectrum? What's a common mistake that you think leaders make when looking at strategy?

Roger Martin: I think a lot of leaders think of it as a plan. It's just a description of a bunch of things that you're going to do, and often that's just a compilation of what all your direct reports say they want to do, rather than saying, "We have to do some things that position us to win, and we don't do other things."

Another thing is just thinking strategy is an aspiration statement, a vision statement. "We're going to be the best in our industry. We're going to be fantastic."

That's nice, but unless you have a Where to Play, How to Win that makes that possible, makes that a reality ... it doesn't matter that you have high aspirations if you're not doing anything to make that come true. I'd say those are errors.

Another one is the Where question; the second question, the Where to Play. I find that often companies and executives almost treat it as it's ordained by the heavens that "We're playing here now, so that's where you play and everybody else in our industry plays there."

If we would have done that with Olay, we would have stayed with the 50+ segment. Instead, we chose this brand new Where that ended up being incredibly, incredibly fruitful for us.

I often describe it as, if you assume your Where to Play is a given, you're trying to make strategy with one hand tied behind your back. You should operate both hands in order to develop a winning strategy.


To watch the full interview with Roger Martin, click here.

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