Mark W. Johnson poses an especially important question: What underlying forces prevent great companies from embracing transformational opportunities? Marshall Goldsmith wrote a book whose title reveals what he thinks: "What got you here won't get you there." The "white space" referred to in the title of Johnson's book "is the range of potential activities not defined or addressed by the company's current business model, that is, the opportunities outside its core and beyond its adjacencies that require a different business model to exploit." Paraphrasing Goldsmith, the business model that got you to your core won't achieve success for you in your "white space," whatever and wherever it may be. Throughout military history, there are countless examples of leaders who fought the last war. Perhaps the most famous (infamous?) is the Maginot Line in France over which German planes and gliders flew (many filled with paratroopers) and around which German tanks sped. The French forces surrendered within a few days, without a fight.
As Johnson explains in Chapter 2, the business model he proposes has four key elements:
"First, every thriving enterprise is propelled by a strong [begin italics] customer value proposition [end italics] (CVP - a product, service, or combination thereof that helps customers do more effectively, conveniently, or affordably a job they have been trying to do.
"Second, a [begin italics] product formula [end italics] defines the way a company will capture value for itself and its shareholders in the form of profit.
"The third and fourth elements of the model, [begin italics] key resources [and] key processes [end italics] are the means by which the company delivers the value to the customer and itself. They are the critical asse4ts, skills, activities, routines, and ways of working that enable the enterprise to fulfill the CVP and profit formula in a repeatable, scalable fashion."
Obviously, those who read this book will need to make certain modifications of the four-box business model framework to accommodate the needs, resources, limitations, and objectives of their own organization. To assist that process Johnson devotes much of Chapter 6 to explaining how to use a proactive, outside-in approach. Keep in mind that Johnson is recommending a framework that enables an organization to be flexible and resilient. The business model framework he describes "brings the discipline of architecture to business model innovation. With the blueprint it provides, you can diagram your existing core business model and design new models to help you seize your white space. The framework is the structure on which manageable and more predictable innovation process can be built - a structure than can unlock your creativity as you pursue transformational growth and renewal.
I presume to suggest that those planning to organizational transformation initiatives or have only recently done so are strongly encouraged to read and then re-read this book in combination with three others: the Updated Edition of Chris Zook's Profit from the Core: A Return to Turbulent Times written with James Allen, Dean Spitzer's Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success, and Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution co-authored by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson.
Near the end of this book, Johnson focuses on Jeff Bezos and notes (as does Bezos) several major as well as minor modifications that Amazon made while seizing its own "white space," before finally selecting the single-detail-page model for its third-party business. The lesson to be learned is this: "As assumptions are tested, success or failure increases the knowledge in the system [as it did at Amazon]. As the enterprise gains traction and turns the corner toward viability, demonstrably knowledge takes over. At that point, clearly defining the metrics of success gives you a clear path toward achieving it, better enabling the nascent initiative to absorb the inevitable early failures along the way."
I presume to suggest that those now planning organizational transformation initiatives or have only recently embarked on them are strongly encouraged to read and then re-read this book in combination with three others: the Updated Edition of Chris Zook's Profit from the Core: A Return to Turbulent Times written with James Allen, Dean Spitzer's Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success, and Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution co-authored by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson.