The Three Tensions: Winning the Struggle to Perform Without Compromise / Edition 1

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A manager argued that he could either increase his business unit's margins or its sales, but not both. His chief executive reminded him of the time when people lived in mud huts and faced the stark choice between light and heat: punch a hole in the side of your hut and you let the daylight in but also the cold, or block up all the openings and you stay warm but sit in darkness. The invention of glass made it possible to overcome the dilemma—to let in the light but not the cold. How then, he asked his manager, will you resolve your dilemma between no sales or no margin improvement? Where is the glass?
From the Introduction

"To win, leaders have to push their companies beyond trade-offs. They must find strong growth at premium returns, not one or the other. They must deliver great results today and build for the future at the same time, not push for earnings that can't be sustained. The Three Tensions is about having both at the same time, more of the time. I recommend it to any manager serious about winning."
—James Kilts, former chairman, CEO, and president, The Gillette Company

"Leadership can't be just about telling people what you expect of them. The Three Tensions sets out a range of helpful tactics leaders can adopt to really engage their people in the search for good performance on many fronts."
—Andrew Cosslett, chief executive, InterContinental Hotels Group PLC

"The Three Tensions speaks to fundamental management issues, perhaps the most fundamental. Managers looking for new ideas on how to improve performance will find it very stimulating. I found my own thinking very much influenced by it."
—John Roberts, professor of economics, strategic management, and international business, Stanford Business School

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Every executive will immediately connect with the themes of this important new management book: the conflict between profitability and growth, the demands of the short term and the long term, the inevitable incompatibility of centralization and decentralization. But in The Three Tensions (Jossey-Bass), consultants Dominic Dodd and Ken Favaro expose the false choices executives make in resolving these issues and the traps and cycles they fall into when they do. In many ways, this is a difficult book because of the stylized framework and vocabulary that the authors have created, and the absence of a single overarching idea such as "excellence" or "reengineering." But the essential insight — that the solution to these "tensions" lies not in "balance" or "compromise" but in a relentless focus on customer benefit, sustainable earnings and cultural norms — has the advantage of being both original and wise. 
—S.P. (Washington Post, February 25, 2007)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787987794
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 1/9/2007
  • Series: J-B US non-Franchise Leadership Series , #41
  • Edition description: Revised Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

The authors are from Marakon Associates, called by Fortune magazine "the best-kept secret in consulting" and by The Economist "a consultancy that has advised some of the world's most consistently successful companies."

Dominic Dodd is a senior advisor of Marakon Associates. Since joining the firm in 1989, he has been a managing partner and Marakon's worldwide director of marketing and communications. He lives in London.

Ken Favaro is co-chairman of Marakon Associates. In his 22 years with the firm, he has been regional managing partner for Europe and has served two terms as Marakon's chief executive. He lives in New York.
For more information about the book or to contact the authors, please visit

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Table of Contents



1 The Corporate Cycle.

2 Profitability vs. Growth.

3 Today vs. Tomorrow.

4 Whole vs. Parts.

5 Breaking the Corporate Cycle.

6 The Next Big Thing.

Appendix A: Market Value and Batting Average.

Appendix B: Our Research Methodology.


Selected Reading.


About the Authors.


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