Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

What Really Works: The 4+2 Formula for Sustained Business Success

What Really Works: The 4+2 Formula for Sustained Business Success

4.0 1
by William Joyce, Nitin Nohria, Bruce Roberson

See All Formats & Editions

Based on a groundbreaking study, analysing data on 200 management practices gathered over a 10 year period. Reveals the effectiveness of the 4+2 practices (4 primary and 2 of 4 possible secondary) practices that really matter –– the ones that, if followed rigorously, ensure sustained business success. With a new introduction by the authors.


Based on a groundbreaking study, analysing data on 200 management practices gathered over a 10 year period. Reveals the effectiveness of the 4+2 practices (4 primary and 2 of 4 possible secondary) practices that really matter –– the ones that, if followed rigorously, ensure sustained business success. With a new introduction by the authors.

With hundreds of well–known management practices and prescriptions promoted by consultants and available to business, which are really effective and contribute to the growth and continued success of a company? Which do little or nothing? Based on the "Evergreen Project," a massive, 5 year study involving the business school faculties of ten universities, the authors set out to find the management practices that truly promote long–term growth and success. Their findings will revolutionize the art and practice of business management.The book shows that there are essentially six management practices that all successful companies must master simultaneously. They range from focusing on a strategy of growth to maintaining the depth and quality of human talent in the organization.

Editorial Reviews

Harvard Business Review
“Forget the fads. Here are eight big, basic, proven building blocks of long-term company success.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

Read an Excerpt

What Really Works

The 4+2 Formula for Sustained Business Success
By Joyce, William


ISBN: 0060513004

Chapter One

4+2 Equals Business Success

Business is full of mysteries, but none greater than this: What really works?

The grand illusion of the 1990s was that nothing from the Old Economy really mattered, provided you were blessed with a sexy IPO, cold nerve, and the magic carpet of momentum trading. If you looked and talked like a dot.com tycoon, reporters fawned, headwaiters beamed, your Porsche gleamed. The so-called New Economy was a dream world ruled by the arrogance of youth, the naivety of new money, the ignorance of alleged visionaries. Blind as bats at high noon, amateur robber barons declared the business cycle obsolete.

We know better now. Infinitely and painfully better. In the aftermath of a burst bubble, its hot air now frigid, we know anew that business is, was, and always will be hard,risky, insecure, and unpredictable. Optimism drives every entrepreneur, but dreams of success are more often a reality of failure. Businesspeople spend their best years in daily combat, fighting competitors, flattering customers, mollifying shareholders, cajoling employees, importuning bankers, and fending off landlords, tax collectors, and government regulators.

In short, today's sobered managers realize all too painfully that many, many things matter in achieving business success. But the galling fact is that few if any of the most successful managers can tell you much more than what worked for them.

For decades, one of the great puzzles of business life has been why a few companies thrive in the worst of times,contradicting all the bad numbers that afflict their industry peers. In the downturn of the early 1990s, for example, certain enterprises seemed immune to misfortune -- Campbell Soup in the food and snack industry, Conseco in life and health insurance, Gap in specialty retail, Duke Energy in electric utilities, Nucor in steel, Sony in consumer electronics, Walgreen in the pharmacy business. Yet, it won't escape your notice that today's version of this list would not include all these names -- a sign that even the best managers may not fully know what they are doing right in good times, much less how to keep their companies booming in bad times.

Surely this can't be true, you say. Winners must know something that losers don't. And so, given our abiding faith in experts and how-to books, managers savor every word of wisdom from legendary chief executives like GE's Jack Welch, AlliedSignal's Larry Bossidy, and IBM's Lou Gerstner, whose writings rivet business-people everywhere. These eminences offer actual answers: Gerstner, for example, largely attributed IBM's resurrection as an industry leader to his overhaul of its ingrained, feudal corporate culture.

But such answers don't translate well. They derive from local conditions and unique situations. They aren't universal. Gerstner's work makes a great story, but your own company is unlikely to resemble the IBM he inherited, much less the one he reinvented. The same goes for silver-bullet cures prescribed by many management thinkers. The ultimate answer, they tell us, is to focus single-mindedly on some newly coined management buzz-word or principle. Consider just a partial roster of these formulations: learning organizations, matrix management, management by objectives, peak performance, team-based management, total quality management.

These ideas are sometimes brilliant and often useful, but they have about as much staying power as the length of hemlines. For one thing, they become passing fads because managers are too busy to absorb or apply them as effectively as their inventors hope. Cynicism ensues, followed by irritation when the idea flops. Soon it is abandoned. Nothing is less enduring than yesterday's half-nibbled panacea.

So the great question remains, unanswered and not even well asked: What really works?

The truth is that managers have spent more than a century guessing at what really matters in business -- and guessing wrong. Managers have embraced fad after fad, all to their detriment. Like other stubborn mysteries, the puzzle of why some companies win and most lose has been reduced to blind faith o luck rather than hard investigation and solid proof. It is time for the first book identifying the fundamental practices that create business success -- the ones that do indeed really matter.

This is that book -- the world's most systematic, large-scale study of the practices that create business winners. Instead of anecdotal evidence or personal intuition, it is based on a massive research project conducted with scientific rigor and verified by measured fact.

The Evergreen Project

The Evergreen Project, as we called it, was the first statistically rigorous search for the key to "evergreen" business success. Evergreen mobilized more than fifty leading academics and consultants, who used well-accepted research tools and procedures to identify, collate, and analyze the experience of dozens of companies over a ten-year period (1986 to 1996). From that examination emerged the 4+2 formula that is at the heart of this book.

Essentially, we found eight management practices -- four primary and four secondary -- that directly correlated with superior corporate performance as measured by total return to shareholders (TRS). And we discovered that winning companies achieved excellence in all four of the primary practices, plus two of the secondary practices -- hence our 4+2 formula. Losing companies failed to do so.

For managers, the formula represents a proven guide to what really matters -- the crucial practices that achieve lasting business success. In addition, the Evergreen Project revealed that each of the eight practices evokes certain behaviors typical of winning companies. These behaviors -- we call them mandates -- give managers practical benchmarks to help reinforce the practices.


Excerpted from What Really Works by Joyce, William Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

William Joyce is professor of strategy and organization theory at the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

What Really Works: The 4+2 Formula For Sustained Business Success 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago