The Breakthrough Imperative
The Breakthrough Imperative
The Breakthrough Imperative
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Mark Gottfredson & Steve Schaubert Buy the book  |  Bain.com  |  Contact



When you accepted your position as general manager, you knew that your overall objective would be to arrive at an improved business situation as seen through the eyes of most or all of the relevant stakeholders—shareholders, customers, suppliers, senior management, employees, and community constituencies.

But we use the term "point of arrival" in a specific way. Your point of arrival isn't some vague statement about improvement. Rather, the point of arrival is a set of carefully defined, numerically specific goals that can be accomplished in two years or three years or five years, whatever your time horizon may be. You may be a new manager or CEO, or you may be a longer-term leader facing an inflection point, a need to put the business on a new trajectory. But whatever your situation, your point of arrival should explicitly describe the performance of your organization at the point in the future that corresponds to your likely tenure.

The point of arrival has to be big, ambitious, and inspiring—a set of objectives that get people fired up and eager for the fray. Yet it must also be specific, realistic, and attainable. It must be a set of objectives that can be rigorously tracked and monitored. The four laws help frame a point of arrival that meets these criteria, and help show how to reach it.

Implications for the general manager:

  • Form your point of arrival on the basis of your point-of-departure diagnostic. It must be examined in light of the twelve must-have facts, and it must be consistent with the four laws. The point of arrival must be compelling, motivating, and realistic; it must match the likely job tenure of the general manager and the expectations of key stakeholders, with clear progress milestones in eighteen months to two years. It will set the standards by which you are evaluated during your tenure.
  • Establish strong consensus on your point of arrival with all stakeholders. Develop a simple, memorable structure for communicating and monitoring the point of arrival.
  • Develop detailed action plans linked to and supporting the three to five critical action imperatives, based on the twelve must-have facts and the in-depth performance-improvement diagnostic. The plan should include all the levers necessary to move performance in the direction you want to go, at the pace required by your point-of-arrival timeline.
  • Use relatively few critical metrics to measure success—probably no more than eight to twelve variables, under the three to five critical action imperatives. Typically, these will include key strategic, operational, and organizational measures.
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