Strategy Triangle Revival

Right around 1997 Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema released The Discipline of Market Leaders.  It was an exciting book for me and my colleagues at Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) because the book was researched by the CSC Index division.  A few years earlier CSC’s own Michael Hammer and James Champy revolutionized how we think about how to run organizations with their book Reengineering the Corporation.  Building on that book with new research, "Disciplines" shifted the focus from “how” to “what”.


The timelessness of what they wrote became clearly evident earlier this year, when I saw a slightly reworded version “Disciplines” at the foundation of a culture change initiative.

Though not cutting edge, exciting and new, I thought it might be worth revisiting the strategic wisdom that rings as true today as it did more than 20 years ago.


The basic premise of the book is that a corporation that wants to be a market leader in their field needs to commit itself to become #1 in one of these disciplines, and no less than #3 in the two others.

Operational Excellence

The value proposition is to be the low or lowest price in the market.  This is achieved by eliminating all waste and inefficiency.   These are fine tuned process machines seeking economies of scale, and optimization is a science.

Aldi, Wal-Mart and UPS jump out.  UPS, for example, trains their drivers how to walk and even how to best hold their vehicle key.

Product leadership

These are companies that offer products or services that push performance and innovation boundaries.  They will sacrifice price and lead the customer rather than be lead by them.

Intel and Nike made a good showing in the past but 3M is a mainstay and today no one stands out like Apple and maybe Bose.

Customer Intimacy

These companies are all about delivering what specific customers want.  It’s all about the customer.  Often these are niche company’s but it has also been achieved at a large scale.

Airborne Express and Nordstrom once dominated the category but today think Virgin Limited Edition vacations.

Nothing to Nobody

When I recently saw the recycled version of this “oldy but goody”, the triangle had a hole in the middle labeled “Nothing to Nobody”.   The visual clarity was new, the concept wasn’t.

Those companies that are hovering in the middle of the triangle, not exceptional in any of the three disciplines, are doomed to mediocrity and find themselves small in the rear view mirror of their competitors.  Even those that excel at just one discipline and ignore the other two, end up fighting for survival from the back of the pack.

Defining it is one thing.  Strategic and tactical decisions must be driven by the course set forth by the strategy.  Are you a product leader?  Then let go of price constraints as your target market is not the cost conscious crowd.  If customer intimacy is your game, then don’t hold on to self serving efficiencies in options, features, designs or delivery methods.  Are you competing with operational excellence?  Quality, selection, and esthetics of your brick and mortar will be secondary.

You have to pick one.  Just one.  It must be the tie breaker for your critical decisions and only then should you strive to be very good at the other two.

While not expressed in these words, the concept should be evident in the strategies of most successful corporation running at the front of the pack.

Can you identify which corner of the triangle your organization driving towards?

How about the organizations you work with?

Are either hovering in the middle of the triangle and does it show?


It’s not Business, it’s Personal! Part 1

Friday evening I walked into Jeremiah’s Tavern and made eye contact with the group at the bar.  There were shouts of “Hey Mike!”, smiles and hugs all around.  It had been almost 2 years since the last time we saw each other like this.  Too long, but we picked up like it was yesterday, just as we always had and will again.

We spent several wonderful hours catching up on kids.  “Wow!  Adrianna won the championship in Soul, Korea?” and “How is “Maddy doing with her Division I basketball?”  We inquired about the spouses and others that we had hoped would make it tonight.

This may sound and awful lot like a reunion high school or college friend, but it wasn’t.  We all had the joy and privilege of working for a start-up that most of us will consider the best little company we ever worked for.Group of happy business people laughing

Besides having a team that loved to work together, the business was also highly successful.  Founded by 2 brothers and a friend, humble beginnings and sacrificial dedication through the “Five guys and a Coffee pot” phase lead to flourishing organic growth and a respectable 35 man, $6 million revenue start-up.  The company would go on to obtain 3 rounds of Venture Capital funding, the last of which was the single largest round issued by any VC firm that year.  Then there were mergers and rebranding, and the boom and bust of the telecom bubble.  But I digress and get ahead of myself.

The reunion reminded me that this company did corporate culture right.

In this multi-part series I will share about practices that just beg to be emulated.  I will cover how this company thrived by building a team with great and passionate people and having fun together.

This was an enviable place where:

  • colleagues were friends
  • work was a fun adventure, and
  • authenticity, trust, loyalty, productivity, innovation, and growth reigned

The series will wrap up with lessons learned.  I will include thoughts about why and how our little slice of corporate heaven came to an end and what you can do to gain what we unfortunately lost.

Come back soon to see the next part in this multi-part series.

Have early thoughts on this post?  Leave a comment.

Twitter the Entry Drug!

After innocently testing the waters of Twitter to see what all the fuss was about I was quickly hooked.  Exposed to a whole new form of media and expression I, I quickly began craving my own blog.

Does the world really need another blog? 

Check out my about page to catch a glimpse of why you might find something interesting on this blog.

I have a backlog of blog topics mind mapped out, ready to be written.  More ideas flooding in each day. 

I am still putting the finishing touches on the blog design and structure over the next few days before the blogging starts.

Thank you for stopping by.

Come back often.  Please let me know when you enjoy or get something out of a post by leaving a comment and referring others. 

Best regards,