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Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage

How can organizations deliver strong financial and operational results today and change fast enough to do so year in, year out?

John Wiley & Sons, 2011 | Scott Keller and Colin Price

Most organizations are managed for mediocrity. The facts are clear: only a third of organizations that achieve excellence are able to maintain it over decades; even fewer manage to implement successful transformation programs. These statistics have devastating implications. In business, most of today's companies will falter within 20 years. In government, the majority of reform programs will fail. And so will most efforts to create broader social change.

This new book by McKinsey senior partners Scott Keller and Colin Price is written for those who intend to beat these odds. It is a must-read for any leader asking these types of questions:

  • How can we dramatically—and quickly—improve our organization's performance?
  • What are the known pitfalls of transforming an organization, and how can we avoid them?
  • How do we ensure that our performance improvements will last?
  • How do we create a culture of continuous change that will help us sustain competitive advantage in a constantly changing world?

In answering these questions, the book offers a full suite of practical tools, scores of real-life examples from organizations of all kinds around the world, and a clear process leaders can readily use to change their organizations. All this is based on the most comprehensive research program ever undertaken in the field of organizational effectiveness and change management. The authors' effort lasted more than a decade and drew on input from more than 600,000 executives and employees from over 500 organizations across the globe, some 900 academic books and articles, and hands-on practical work with more than 100 client organizations.

Author discussion

New answers to persistent questions

The authors have developed a number of fact-based, counterintuitive insights about what matters for success, such as:

  • To sustain high performance, don't make performance your primary focus.
    An organization's health—its ability to align, execute, and renew itself—is equally important and equally manageable.
  • The "soft stuff" can (and should) be managed as rigorously as the "hard stuff."
    Tools to measure and manage health aren't taught in business school, but they exist, are proven, and can be applied by any leader who wants to succeed in making change happen.
  • Copying best practices can be more dangerous than helpful.
    With a rigorous understanding of health, it's possible to analyze how management practices complement—or impede—one another. It's clear that "best practices" don't work in a vacuum, and that's why replicating them in other organizations consistently fails to deliver "best performance."
  • Common sense will often lead you astray.
    Rational, logic-driven approaches to creating organization-wide change neglect the irrational biases that we all share. The most effective leaders take into account the predictable irrationality of employees and leverage it fully to create lasting change.
Making change happen

In the press

Beyond Performance has been described by management expert Gary Hamel as "a manifesto for a new way of thinking about organizations," and Tom Glocer, CEO of Thomson Reuters, sees it as, "a powerful training plan for the institution that seeks to win today and tomorrow." Shikha Sharma, the managing director and CEO of Axis Bank, adds, "If you've ever wondered why some good organizations go bad, read this book. Keller and Price succinctly explain the reasons and show how to stop it from happening to you."

A selection of articles from the global press and author interviews: