Invest all you want in CRM, ERP or supply-chain management systems, but a far greater predictor of your company’s success lies in its adherence to four primary and two of four secondary management practices. That’s the key finding of the Evergreen Project, a five-year study undertaken by 50 leading consultants and academics to ferret out the secrets of success in business. The study found that winning companies achieved excellence in all four of the primary practices, plus any two of the secondary ones. The first primary practice is strategy, which must be clearly defined and communicated, as well as understood by employees, customers, partners and investors. Second, it’s critical to develop and maintain flawless operational execution. Work continually to slash costs, while delivering products that consistently meet expectations. If you can’t always delight your customers, at the very least don’t disappoint them. Third, winning corporations create a culture that’s challenging, satisfying and fun.

Finally, work toward a structure that reduces bureaucracy and simplifies work. Beyond these four primary practices, winning companies also excelled in their ability to attract and nurture talent, to promote innovation, to spur growth with mergers and partnerships, and to keep leaders committed to the business.

Optimize May 2003