The 10 Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization

Rick Wartzman
Rick Wartzman

In his latest column for Forbes online, Drucker Institute Executive Director Rick Wartzman writes about the new book by A.G. Lafley and Roger MartinPlaying to Win: How Strategy Really Works.

Peter Drucker identified ‘the five most important questions you will ever ask about your organization,’” Wartzman writes, adding that, thanks to Lafley, the former chief executive of Procter & Gamble, and Martin, the dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, “I’m voting to extend the list to 10.”

“Like Drucker’s,” Wartzman says, “their five questions are deceivingly simple”: What is our winning aspiration? Where will we play? How will we win? What capabilities must be in place? What management systems are required?

“In some respects,” Wartzman adds, “their framework is a mashup of Drucker’s own five questions—What is our missionWho is our customer? What does the customer value? What are our results? What is our plan?—and what he labeled ‘the theory of the business.’ The latter captures a company’s assumptions about customers and markets, technology, and its own strengths and weaknesses.”

These are the notions “that shape any organization’s behavior,” Drucker explained, and “dictate its decisions about what to do and what not to do.”

“Or, at least, they should dictate such decisions,” Wartzman writes. “The problem is that all too many executives avoid making them. In fact, this may well be the single most powerful insight in Lafley and Martin’s book—and they underscore it repeatedly.”

When a company can’t seem to get its strategy straight, it’s often because of “a reluctance to make truly hard choices,” Lafley and Martin assert. “It is natural to want to keep options open as long as possible, rather than closing off possibilities by making explicit choices. But it is only through making and acting on choices that you can win. Yes, clear, tough choices force your hand and confine you to a path. But they also free you to focus on what matters.”