From CIO Insight:
A few years ago, I attended a session at which management expert Peter Drucker was speaking. At the end of the presentation, one of the participants approached Drucker with a personal question. He said he had a son, a senior in high school, who was trying to settle on what to study as he tried to envision his future and career. The man then asked Drucker what he considered to be the most promising fields of the future that his son should consider pursuing. I will never forget Drucker’s response: “You asked the wrong question,” he said. “What are your son’s strengths and natural gifts? What he decides to pursue in his life and in his career should be aligned with those gifts. Then he will be successful.”
Just like this well-meaning father, well-meaning executives ask the wrong questions about growth—and in doing so miss the true opportunities awaiting their companies as the economy expands. Traditionally, businesspeople have thought of growth as entering an expanding market or adding a new product in hopes of increasing revenues. But that’s only one of four dimensions of growth, and it is not the most important. What does growth really mean? Successful growth starts with being clear on what our purpose is, and on what we want to accomplish as a corporation. This is the most important dimension. The second most important is being clear on what strengths we have that we can leverage to that end. Without purpose, growth is meaningless and chaotic; without strengths, successful growth is impossible. Only when we’ve determined the first two should we turn to the third: what we might add in terms of new product lines, acquisitions or capabilities. The fourth dimension of growth is determining what products, product lines or companies we need to shed because they lie outside our corporate purpose or strengths.
Terrific article... although I do think that there's an important clarification to be made to this list of questions. We must also ask, "Is our purpose meaningful to our customers?" I'm working with a technology client right now and it's becoming blindingly obvious that the company's purpose is not at all aligned with customer needs. They're trying to expand into additional product and service areas, but the fundamental mission is not what customers want to buy.
You can't raise ducks in the desert, no matter how good of a duck farmer you are.