The Growth-Share Matrix was introduced almost 50 years ago by Bruce Henderson and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). It is considered one of the most iconic strategic planning techniques.

The Growth-Share Matrix is a framework first developed in the 1960s to help companies think about the priority (and resources) that they should give to their different businesses. At the height of its success, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Growth-Share Matrix (or approaches based on it) was used by about half of all Fortune 500 companies, according to estimates.

The Growth-Share Matrix

The need which prompted The Growth-Share idea was, indeed, that of managing cash-flow. It was reasoned that one of the main indicators of cash generation was relative market share, and one which pointed to cash usage was that of market growth rate:

“To be successful, a company should have a portfolio of products with different growth rates and different market shares. The portfolio composition is a function of the balance between cash flows. High growth products require cash inputs to grow. Low growth products should generate excess cash. Both kinds are needed simultaneously.”—Bruce Henderson.

The two axes of the matrix are relative market share (or the ability to generate cash) and growth (or the need for cash).

For each product or service, the “area” of the circle represents the value of its sales. The growth–share matrix thus offers a “map” of the organization’s product (or service) strengths and weaknesses, at least in terms of current profitability, as well as the likely cashflows.

The matrix puts each of a firm’s businesses into one of four categories. The categories were all given memorable names – cash cow, star, dog and question mark – which helped to push them into the collective consciousness of managers all over the world.

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