7 steps to the “right to win”

5 mins read

You might find the situation familiar: in a big group different strategic ideas or decision-making initiatives are presented. All ideas were discussed and developed over a long period of time. They all sound good. They are decorated with lots of information, facts and figures. Maybe the idea creators took a sales training in preparation of the pitch. They triggered positive emotions of the participants. There was also enough prior lobbying to increase the chances for one or the other idea. In the room is filled with a positive atmosphere and an anticipation of a new adventure. But one person is not overly impressed by all this. He asks: In all the beautiful options, what is our “right to win”?

Out of the sudden the room is quiet. With this question from the CEO the participants are puzzled with what to say. And how do you actually recognize your “right to win”? What does the CEO understand by the term? Is there anything like a “right to win”, a guaranteed success, so to speak?

The question of “right to win” raised the hurdle for the quality of the proposed strategic initiatives. No one will make more suggestions without a justification for the “right to win”.

To facilitate the discussions and to bring greater clarity into the situation, you can now use the “Right to win“ canvas!

The right to win is the ability of an organization to engage in a market with above-average chances over the long term. At least the chances should be better than those of the competition. The “right to win” does not fall into your lap, it has to be earned. It comprises on the starting position, the market strategy, the own capabilities and the orientation of the portfolio. Ash Maurya called it the unfair advantage in the lean canvas, a piece of the puzzle that is necessary for success and can not be copied or purchased by others. It’s an above-average chance of success, consistently over time.

There are many theories for an optimized strategy, such as focus on core competencies or businesses, adaptation, or learning of the organization, operational excellence, or differentiated positioning. As is often the case, theories do not always work in practice. Therefore, the question of the “right to win” requires its own and adapted response to the situation.

The answer to a good “right to win” can be found by stepping back and seeing the identity of the organization, the existing and needed skill set and strengths,the appropriate alignment of the portfolio. It requires thinking backwards from a desired future state while projecting the required skills and knowledge from the current state into the future. The “right to win” is ultimately a list of things that you put into a new idea and which one gives you a good starting position, i.e. the endowment.

The “Right to win Canvas

The following seven steps describe the procedure for facilitating the discussion. Use the canvas and a few sticky notes.

Step 1: Strategic idea

Summarize the idea in max. 30 words: For whom should the idea work for (target segment)? What will you do for the target segment? How will you compete?

Step 2: Assumptions

Capture critical points that need to be met or to work for the idea to be successfully implemented. What are the basic assumptions of the business logic? What are the prerequisite for the successful implementation of the idea?

Step 3: Possible external future scenarios

Regardless of the idea, which external influences can impact the organization? What could happen: changes in the market or tariffs, emergence of new technologies, loss of important key customers, sudden increase in demand. Become creative! Identify the influences that are most likely and most significant. Your idea should work despite the possible external influences.

Step 4: Endowment

List all the strengths relevant to the idea that the organization has: skills, market access and customer relationships, assets, proprietary knowledge, brand, customer data, geography, value chain …

Step 5: Gap

Think about how it is, if your idea works in the future. What new strengths did you build up and use for implementing the idea? What were the new levers of success?

How can you aquire the skills through new employees, through acquisitions, partnerships?

The last two steps serve to check the idea. It consists of a few sanity questions and the exploration of potential moves of the competitors.

Step 6: Sanity check

Pose a few questions as to whether the idea can work in your organization. For example, does the idea match the identity, the brand? Does it strengthen an economic driver? Will it survive in the case of unfavorable external development? Are only a few new skills needed? Will the idea lead to a realignment of the business portfolio resources at scale? Will there be enough room for flexible adjustments despite a high commitment to the idea?

Step 7: Competitors move

In this step you check the possible moves of the competition. What are the options for the competition to seize the market opportunities? How easily could the competition copy your idea? How can the competition kill your idea? What are the weak points in your idea?

After going through the seven steps you will have a good picture of the “right to win” for your idea. You know what you will build on and why you can survive on the market with the idea. You know the gaps you will close. In addition, you know how the idea will survive itself under various external conditions.

The “right to win” is a short exercise to develop a better understanding of the chances of success of ideas. After the selection of the idea, for example with the 5 elements of organizational renewal and the canvas of idea assessment, the “right to win” helps to take another step towards successful implementation.


However, the discussion should not hamper the implementation of the idea. Learning effects are very likely in transformative ideas. Learning and iterating forward is more important than protecting the status quo. Imagine a top tennis player, who only plays when he is absolutely sure about his “right to win”. He will never play. So start your exploration now!

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