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Renewable Advantage

Crafting Strategy Through Economic Time


The task of continuously renewing a company is the greatest challenge confronting any chief executive. To enable managers to project renewal strategies likely to win in the future, Jeffrey Williams has constructed a dynamic road map of outcomes in what he calls "economic time," based on a ten-year study of growth, decline, and renewal patterns of hundreds of companies in forty-five industries. In this superbly readable book, Williams's revolutionary, award-winning concept of slow-, standard-, and fast-cycle economic time provides a unifying business language that the multicycle manager can use to compare the renewal opportunities of widely diverse products, companies, and markets.
Using examples and studies from companies such as Starbucks, McDonald's, UPS, Compaq, Sony, Merck, Disney, Toyota, IKEA, Microsoft, Sony, Intel, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Chrysler, and Hewlett-Packard, Williams explains that the key idea in economic time is being able to manage products and organizations according to the speed and means by which economic value arises, decays, and is renewed. The drivers of economic time are isolating mechanisms -- a firm's unique capabilities that lie at the heart of its competitive advantage -- and that, in Williams's framework, "delay" product obsolescence. Building on his intuitively appealing model, Williams describes how his three laws of renewal -- convergence, alignment, and renewal -- provide guidelines by which managers can gain command over strategy in complex, dynamic competitive situations.
Renewable Advantage is not only essential reading but also will become a standard reference for senior and division managers, business scientists and strategists, and general managers in all industries.

Discussion Group Questions
1. How stable is your business model? How is it changing? To what extent do your managers practice renewal-based thinking as a normal part of your day-to-day operations?
2. Is your advantage renewable-or merely sustainable? Are you facing growth barriers that are hidden from your managers?
3. Do managers in your scale-driven businesses understand how to orchestrate product design, process improvements and organizational learning alongside scale-that size for the sake of size is no longer enough?
4. Are you approaching "winner-take-all" outcomes in your software-related businesses? What is the likelihood for "market tipping" towards a single, dominant product? Are opportunities available to create shielded, long-lived profits through staircase strategies?
5. Are your faster-moving businesses nearing fast-cycle status, where product half-life is as short as 12 months? Does everyone in your organization understand the depth of change needed to become "children eaters?"
6. How, specifically, are your critical success factors changing? Which previously critical factors have decayed to the point where they are still needed but no longer the basis of superior profitability? Are your managers prepared to take advantage these increasingly diverse market capitalization opportunities?
7. Which of your businesses are facing "high energy markets?" where a radical change in profitability for all competitors is likely occur in the future? How extensive are measures in place to provide early warning of needed changes to your business model?
8. Where do your senior managers spend most of their time in strategic thinking? How many operate in the "70% zone," where business value is renewed through purposeful recapitalization of aging businesses?
9. Chapter 10 outlines seven steps to renewable leadership. How many of these are practiced in your company?