WHAT REALLY WORKS: The 4+2 Formula for Sustained Business Success

Nitin Nohria, Author, William F. Joyce, Author, Bruce Roberson, Author . Harper Business $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-051278-1

Managers burned too often by following the latest highly touted formula for business success will welcome this cogent summary of a wide-ranging, systematic study about fundamental practices associated with long-term corporate health. Joyce, a Dartmouth business professor, and his collaborators surveyed hundreds of companies from 1986 to 1996 to correlate superior corporate performance with the companies' adherence to 200 commonly used practices. Companies they identify as winners consistently followed successful practices in all four of the primary areas (strategy, execution, culture and structure) and any two secondary areas (talent, leadership, innovation, and mergers and partnerships). The key to long-term success, they argue, is implementing effective programs in the six areas simultaneously. After analyzing the data, Joyce and his colleagues concluded that a company following this "4+2" formula over the 1986–1996 period had a better than 90% chance of being a winner. Anecdotes from the successful companies will interest general business readers, but the contrast with the experience of companies that stumbled should be particularly instructive. Replete with incisive discussions of various companies' approaches for each of the four primary and four secondary areas of practice, the book also offers summaries of the study results in table format. For managers who wonder how anybody can keep six areas of practice fine-tuned at the same time, the authors agree it may be a challenge, but point to their wealth of success stories to show it isn't impossible. Agent, Helen Rees. (May 6)

Forecast:This is Harper's lead business book for summer; the publisher is comparing it to Good to Great, which was published in 2001 and is still on business bestseller lists. If Joyce can garner praise from business bigwigs and get attention from a few CEOs, his book may catch on among corporate types.

Reviewed on: 04/21/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
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