Executive Summary

The challenge Zone to Win addresses is how to power through a transformational initiative in a public company in order to catch the next big wave of disruptive innovation (or prevent it from catching you). Such transformations create a crisis of prioritization because there are simply not enough resources to go around. Something has to give, and if you are going to be successful, it has to be the status quo.

The fastest and most effective way to drive a transformational change is to implement the discipline of zone management. This entails segmenting the enterprise into four zones, each with its own resources, management systems, and key metrics:

  • The Performance Zone, where the key metric is to make the number. It consists of the sales organizations accountable for bookings and the product and service organizations accountable for revenue—and no one else.
  • The Productivity Zone, where success means delivering efficient systems and effective programs while ensuring all operations are regulatory compliant. Virtually everyone who is not directly accountable for a booking or revenue number works here.
  • The Incubation Zone, where the objective is to make, market, and sell products and services that are highly disruptive to the status quo. These efforts are deliberately kept sequestered from the prior two zones to speed cycle time, embrace innovation, and take risk. Success here consists of creating viable businesses in net new uncorrelated categories that can be scaled to material size.
  • The Transformation Zone, where success equates either to driving an incubated business to material scale or fending off a direct attack on a core business model. In either case an initiative in this zone takes priority over all activities in the other three zones, and they must make whatever adjustments necessary to accommodate it.

Each of the first three zones has its own best practices which under normal circumstances result in superior execution and in disrupted times are necessary just to survive. These are described in detail in chapters devoted to each zone, each ending with a “Faults and Fixes” section which outlines the most common mistakes established enterprises make and how to correct them.

The chapter on the Transformation Zone defies conventional wisdom, repudiating current best practices as being in fact worst practices instead. It prescribes a regime that ruthlessly prioritizes the transformational initiative above any and all other activities under way and describes how to engage across all four zones to manage it through to completion. This is the singular job of the CEO and the signature accomplishment for that role.

The book concludes with a short chapter on how to integrate zoning into the annual planning process and a final chapter presenting two case studies where these methods are being applied successfully. The first of these studies focuses on Salesforce, where Marc Benioff has led two successful transformational initiatives in recent years, and the second on Microsoft, where Satya Nadella is fending off a direct attack on his core business model.

The intent of the book overall is to provide executive teams in established enterprises with a vocabulary and a set of frameworks that accurately represent the dynamics of their encounters with disruptive innovations and a set of tools by which they can meet these challenges successfully. The goal is to put a stake in the heart of the innovator’s dilemma once and for all.