Bookshelf: RETHINK: A Business Manifesto for Cutting Costs and Boosting Innovation

Bookshelf: RETHINK: A Business Manifesto for Cutting Costs and Boosting Innovation

By Ric Merrifield, FT Press, 2009, 212 pages, $24.99

Confronting one of the worst downturns in history, today's companies have good reason to be ratcheting up efficiency and productivity any way they can. But as leaders turn their attention to slashing costs and streamlining processes, they risk making a fatal mistake: giving so much attention to how something is done that they lose sight of what the job is supposed to accomplish.

In "RETHINK," the author, a Microsoft business scientist, explains how to focus on the what instead of the how. Why, for example, did proven fixer-upper Robert Nardelli not just fail to bring Home Depot out of its slump, but nearly destroy the single most important competitive advantage the company possessed? By conventional standards, he did everything right -- cutting costs, improving processes and increasing productivity. His mistake? Merrifield says Nardelli fell into the "how" trap.

Citing instances such as Procter & Gamble and Amazon.com, he offers tips on how to break out of the "how" trap. For example:

  • Identify the "whats" that are truly valuable and should be enhanced.
  • Determine which "whats" you are -- and aren't -- good at and which should be eliminated.
  • Analyze how the "whats" are connected, so that you can decide which to keep and which you can safely jettison without destabilizing your business ecosystem.
  • Calculate how your company, customers, suppliers and partners will adapt to this new landscape.

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