Hey, here’s an idea. What if someone read those business-advice tomes choking bookstore shelves, analyzed the corporations cited, and distilled their secrets into one clear, concise, convincing read?

Someone did. The result is What Really Works: The 4+2 Formula for Sustained Business Success (HarperCollins). Academics William Joyce and Nitin Nohria teamed with Bruce Roberson, a former partner with McKinsey and Co., to analyze 200-plus business practices used by 160 companies.

Searching for the management practices that produce greatest return to shareholders (RTS), the authors discovered that winning companies excel at four — strategy, execution, culture, and organization — and perform well in at least two secondary areas — talent, leadership, innovation, and mergers and acquisitions. Based on RTS in consecutive five-year spans, What Really Works divides the companies into Winners (Target, Dollar General), Climbers (Teradyne), Tumblers (Nike), and Losers (Kmart, anyone?).

Co-author Roberson calls the link between 4+2 practices and business success “astonishing,” noting that investors in the average Winner company enjoyed an almost tenfold return. Now that’s really working.