It’s okay to squeeze, to put your vision through the wringer. Question it, poke holes in it, rethink, rework. For example, if you’ve identified an area of competitive advantage, ask yourself what it really means and why you have it. If you have made assumptions about the future, question them. Challenge your predictions, reexamine your innovations, think through worst-case scenarios, kick the strategic tires.
When Darwin Smith took the helm of Kimberly-Clark, the once mighty paper company’s stock had fallen and sales were flat. Smith transformed the company. I had a vision and I made good on it: I sold paper mills and focused instead on building consumer brands.
During the twenty years that I was CEO, annual sales increased sevenfold, and today Kleenex and other Kimberly-Clark brands are among the best-known consumer products in over 150 countries.5
Case study: Clara, CEO of a consumer food company, is saddled with navigating her company and its brands through a recession. She starts with a vision, a focus on going back to basics, on core competencies, on pushing for growth of major product lines rather than looking for the next big thing.