Title: Corporate growth engines: driving to sustainable strategic advantage

Authors: Michel G. Thouati, Michael Radnor, Daniel Z. Levin

Addresses: Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University, 2001 Sheridan Road, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA. Kellogg Graduate School, Northwestern University, 2001 Sheridan Road, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA. Faculty of Management, Rutgers University, 111 Washington Street, Newark, New Jersey 07102, USA

Abstract: In today|s highly competitive and rapidly changing environment, core competence and capability principles have become mainstay concepts of corporate strategic thinking. They lend themselves well to high-level strategic analysis, but their limited focus and static character do not inherently provide either an application roadmap to develop a competence/capability, or, given the existence of a core competence, a framework to achieve active market superiority. The concept of corporate growth engine, a further development of core competence and capability, unifies and extends several existing strategy paradigms, and spans all three phases of the corporate strategy process - analysis, planning and execution. Its characteristics can be used by the management team with the desire to actively drive to sustainable strategic advantage as a blueprint for implementation. Some empirical evidence points at significant benefits for both well and poorly run corporations. This paper, conceptual in nature, will introduce the growth engine paradigm, trace its use through ten vignettes of large technology-intensive corporations, and discuss its seven defining characteristics. It will contrast this new construct to existing strategic principles, and illustrate its greater power in providing a framework for achieving sustainable superiority. Finally, it will present preliminary requirements for building, identifying, and sustaining a growth engine. The highly competitive environment that now confronts many firms has been forcing managers to re-examine and improve the strategic rules and processes by which they operate. Unfortunately, state-of-the-art strategic concepts in the literature and as dispensed by consultants are still piecemeal and incomplete. They primarily have an analysis focus, and fail to offer sufficient guidance beyond that stage they must be complemented by a separate methodology to carry through into planning and especially into execution [1]. Thus, these concepts, because of their limited foci within the overall strategic process, do not define, enrich or structure strategic planning and execution. Nor do they provide the critical drive and vision often needed. The management team interested in developing strategic superiority needs something more, a coherent whole that can provide meaning and direction, a systemic and context-rich approach that can deal with the totality of the strategic challenge. We are proposing here a new construct, that of corporate growth engines, that aims at bridging the whole strategic process from analysis to planning and execution. It is evolved from existing strategy paradigms, and provides the corporate management team with a practical roadmap to tackle strategic issues along the whole span of the strategy process. In proposing this new concept for the first time, our purpose is to present and explore new insights into the strategic process, and to illustrate it in action through several vignettes. Formal testing and validation of the ideas introduced remain for future research, hopefully stimulated and informed by this presentation. We will begin with a review of the overall strategy process to show that no existing strategic concept provides the paradigms needed to cover its entire span. We will then analyse a series of corporate case study vignettes, using the corporate growth engine concept as an explanation for company success and failure.

Keywords: growth engine; core competence; strategy process.

DOI: 10.1504/IJMTM.2001.001395

International Journal of Manufacturing Technology and Management, 2001 Vol.3 No.1/2, pp.49-74

Available online: 02 Jul 2003 *

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