Zone to Win: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: November 17th, 2015 by bobmorris

Zone to WinZone to Win: Organizing to Compete in an Age of Disruption
Geoffrey A. Moore
Diversion Books (2015)

How to thrive amidst perils and pitfalls in the global marketplace that are only visible through the “lens of zone management”

I have read and reviewed all of Geoffrey Moore’s previous six books. In my opinion, Zone to Win is his most valuable (thus far) because I think it will have wider and deeper impact than have any of its predecessors. Its insights are relevant to almost any organization, whatever its size, nature, and history may be.

This is what Marc Benioff has in mind, in the Foreword, when explaining that zone management “is about dividing and conquering, establishing independent zones, each with what at Salesforce we call a V2MOM — Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures…Zone to Win is the playbook for building enterprises that reach escape velocity — orienting to the future and avoiding the inertial pull of the past. It’s the playbook for just surviving but succeeding in today’s disruptive, connected, fast-paced world.”

Moore makes clever use of an extended metaphor from the gridiron, offensive and defensive coordination. As he explains, “making the number on the back of the established lines of defense” is a painfully wasteful response to waves of new opportunity. “This brings us to the heart of the crisis of polarization: At the core you must deliver on two conflicting objectives. On the one hand, you must maintain your established franchises for the life of their respective business models, adjusting to declining revenue growth by optimizing for increasing earnings growth…At the same time, every decade or so you must get your company into one net new line of business that has exceptionally high revenue growth.”

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Moore’s coverage:

o Zone Offense and Zone Defense defined (Page 11)
o Crisis of prioritization (14-18, 22-23, and 30-32)
o Emerging categories (18-23, 41-42, and 91-92)
o Business model disruption (26-27)
o Zone management (30-31, 48-50, and 126-127
o Sustaining innovation versus disruptive innovation (36-38)
o Productivity zone initiatives (40-41)
o Performance zone and matrix (62-66)
o Best practices (67-68 and 87-89)
o Productivity zone (85-87)
o Incubation zone (100-103)
o Role of the CEO (106-108 and 122-123)
o Transportation zone (119-121)
o Incubation zone (100-103)
Note: Moore discusses each of the zones in much greater depth. These are page references to a brief overview.
o Zoning to Win at Salesforce and Microsoft: Two mini-case studies: (133-158)

Organizations that survive and thrive are well-prepared to attack whenever and whatever new opportunities develop but also to defend themselves against attacks whenever and wherever they occur in the given competitive marketplace. I invoke football nomenclature when stressing the importance of controlling the ball (i.e. “moving the chains”) while scoring as many points as possible, then regaining possession of the ball as quickly as possible, thereby preventing an opponent from scoring. There really are valid correlations between the business world and the gridiron.

For C-level executives to organize to compete in the Age of Disruption, where to begin? “The strategic plan is as good a place to start as any, with a specific focus on how best to allocate resources across three investment horizons. Each horizon is defined in terms of when the return on that investment will be realized” during (1) the coming year, (2) in 2-3 years, and (3) in 3-5 years. “In this model, the only tangible returns come from Horizon 1.”

With regard to the most common mistakes when organizing to compete in the Age of Disruption, Moore focuses on a series of steps to take: Fund the initiative out of only one zone, lock in the performance matrix, activate the productivity zone, fence off the incubation zone, determine the status of the transformation zone and proceed accordingly.

As Marc Bennioff’s previously cited comments suggest, “Zone to Win is the playbook for building enterprises that reach escape velocity — orienting to the future and avoiding the inertial pull of the past. It’s the playbook for just surviving but succeeding in today’s disruptive, connected, fast-paced world.”

The Serpent observes in George Bernard Shaw’s play, Back to Methuselah (1921): “I hear you say ‘Why?’ Always ‘Why?’ You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’” In Zone to Win as in his previous work and will in other books yet to be written, Geoffrey Moore thoroughly explains HOW.

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