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5 pieces of advice all HP managers follow

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To set a consistent strategy for her 300,000 employees at Hewlett-Packard, Meg Whitman requires that all her managers read a business book: Playing to Win by A.G. Lafley.

Whitman, 58, says that the book influences her business strategy and provides what she calls “a really good common framework that we can apply across HP.” By insisting that her managers read it and act on what they learn, Whitman brings together her far-flung workforce to focus on a unified strategy.

She became CEO of Hewlett-Packard in 2011 after her unsuccessful bid to become California’s governor in 2010. She began her career in 1979 as a brand manager at Procter & Gamble, where Lafley serves as chief executive.

Lafley was Procter & Gamble's CEO from 2000 to 2009. During that time, he doubled sales, quadrupled profits and increased its market value by more than $100 billion. He retired in 2010 but rejoined P&G in 2013 for a second stint as CEO.

What’s so special about Lafley’s book? It presents five key questions to guide leaders to think strategically:

1. What is our winning aspiration? Start by identifying a central purpose. This focuses your efforts on what matters most.

2. Where will we play? Define the scope of your competitive landscape. Once you decide where you want to execute the strategy, you can allocate resources efficiently and position your product (or organization) effectively.

3. How will we win? Articulate how you’ll derive value or victory from your efforts. Identify what exactly will make your strategy a success.

4. What capabilities do you need? List the activities that must occur to support your winning strategy. Examples can include harnessing your employees’ technical prowess or your firm’s intellectual property.

5. What systems do you need? Set up systems and measures that help you track your progress. Managers need to take a structured approach to implementing strategy.

—Adapted from “HP CEO Meg Whitman makes the whole company follow the advice in this book,” Julie Bort, www.businessinsider.com.

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