Why a strategy is not a plan

5. November 2013

Date: 05-11-2013
Source: The Economist

Strategies too often fail because more is expected of them than they can deliver

EVERYONE, it seems, is in need of a strategy. Governments have lots of them: strategies for health care, energy, housing, and so on. Each area of policy is made to seem more purposeful if there is a strategy behind it. Similarly, no company these days would dare to admit it lacks one. If things are going badly it will often be put down to the lack of good strategy. People even talk about using it to improve their lives—from coping with stress to losing weight or just making other people like them more.

Over time, the word “strategy” has been drained of meaning by ubiquity and overuse. Sir Lawrence Freedman’s aim in his magisterial new book, “Strategy: A History”, is to find a workable definition of what strategy is and to show how it has evolved and been applied in war, politics and business. Above all, he argues, it is about employing whatever resources are available to achieve the best outcome in situations that are both dynamic and contested: “It is about getting more out of a situation than the starting balance of power would suggest. It is the art of creating power.” Read the rest of this entry »


Business books: Aiming high

4. July 2011

Date: 04-07-2011

Source: The Economist

We launch a quarterly review of business books by considering six of the best 

THERE are few divisions of the book industry with a worse reputation than business publishing.

Hundreds if not thousands of business books come out every year, all with glowing press releases and effervescent puffs. Literary editors tend to consign them straight to the bin.

This is understandable. An astonishing number are worthless. Celebrity CEOs blow their trumpets, consultants market miracle cures, self-help gurus promise that you can grow rich by working four hours a week. Wait a few months: the CEOs have been caught with their hands in the till, the miracle cures are poisons, the self-help gurus bankrupt. What remains is a tangle of jargon-ridden prose.

Understandable but wrong. It is silly to dismiss a whole genre just because so many business books are bad. There are some excellent titles in among the dross: CEO biographies that capture something essential about business, useful prescriptions for restoring companies to health, even self-help books that help make sense of the contradictory pressures of modern corporate life. The average employed person in the West spends more waking time in the office than at home, so it makes no sense to be so dismissive of writers who focus on such an important activity.

The best books provide an insight into how business revolutionises the world. Why is the centre of growth shifting from the developed to the developing countries? Why do some companies succeed and others fail? Why are we swapping the white collar for the no-collar workplace? Why do managers say the astonishing things that they say? The answers to these questions lie in the business books that many literary editors so casually toss out. Read the rest of this entry »


The Calm After the Storm?

3. November 2010
Gestern, 02. November 2010, 17:08:41 | Madeleine McGrath, Tom Peters Blog.

[Our guest blogger is Madeleine McGrath, Managing Director of the Tom Peters Company.]

During summer 2010, we (Tom Peters Company) were sensing that among our clients that had survived the worst of the recession, the mood was becoming more buoyant. Our customer base tends to be more forward-thinking and adventurous than the norm, and is often a bellwether of new trends. We therefore decided to find out what this group was seeing ahead, and if there were lessons for other leaders.

Our recent survey involved a select group of clients located in 29 countries and 6 continents. Overall, we found they, particularly those in the private sector, are indeed ready to put the past behind them. One respondent summed it up this way: “We’ve been in survival mode and it has hurt our growth. We need to focus on the future and stop the survival mentality. But how?”

We used our Excellence Audit™ survey to identify the development priorities that participants now see as important. A sign that recovery is on the way was that the prior focus on cost and systems has been overshadowed by a realization that Leadership is now the key element for attention. Read the rest of this entry »


The Noncorporate Organization

28. October 2010
Dienstag, 26. Oktober 2010, 18:52:53 | Chris Meyer & Julia Kirby

Before the dotcom boom, one never heard the question “what’s your business model?” Asking it would have marked you as dim. A few standard models had been around for a hundred years or so: extractive businesses and agriculture, manufacturing operations, service businesses, media companies, and financial intermediaries, each accommodating a few variations like franchising, piecework, door-to-door sales, temporary labor.

But the Net came along and spawned a Cambrian explosion — a whole new set of potentially viable business models. With the ’90s came e-commerce, community creation, social networking, sponsored search, open source software, crowdsourced information, online gaming with private virtual currencies. “What’s your business model?” became a clever question, as everyone wondered what would be next. The dotbust cleared away some of the chaff, but new ideas continue to arrive as capabilities expand — at the moment location-based services such as Foursquare and Scvngr are the new species on the block. Read the rest of this entry »


Beraten und verkauft?

4. October 2010

Gar nicht schlecht für einen Universitätsprofessor. Gut, hat ja auch selber Beratererfahrung! (hfk)

01. Oktober 2010, 17:11, Karriere Standard

Artikelbild: Johannes Steyrer. - Foto: STANDARD

Johannes Steyrer.

Über die Licht- und Schattenseiten des Beratereinsatzes sprach Hartmut Volk mit Johannes Steyrer von der Interdisziplinären Abteilung für Verhaltenswissenschaftlich orientiertes Management an der WU Wien

STANDARD: Professor Steyrer, ohne externe Wegweisung scheint Unternehmensführung nicht mehr zu funktionieren. Hat das Management Angst vor der eigenen Courage?

Steyrer: Externer Rat war zu allen Zeiten gefragt. Denken Sie an das Orakel von Delphi, die weithin gefragte Ratgeberinstitution der Antike. Letztlich sind auch die großen Weltreligionen solche Ratgeber- und Wegweiserinstitutionen. Sich beraten und sich damit eine Wegweisung geben zu lassen, ist also eine feste Institution des menschlichen Lebens, insofern also nichts Außergewöhnliches oder gar Beunruhigendes.

In diesem Sinne sehe ich in der enormen Beraterdichte unserer Tage denn auch weniger ein Indiz für mangelnde Courage des Managements als eine Antwort auf die ungeheure Komplexität des heutigen wirtschaftlichen Geschehens. Die Komplexität der Entscheidungen und der Druck, rascher und immer rascher handeln zu müssen, lösen Unsicher-heitsgefühle aus und das Bedürfnis, sich zu besprechen. So kommen die Berater ins Spiel. Mit anderen Worten wird der Komplexität auf der einen Seite die Komplexität, sprich der massive Beratereinsatz, auf der anderen Seite entgegengesetzt. Dass dabei das ausgeprägte Absicherungsdenken auf der einen Seite die andere Seite zu einer munteren Geschäftemacherei inspiriert, wird niemand bestreiten.

STANDARD: Es gibt also gute Gründe, sich beraten zu lassen?

Steyrer: Mit den Augen des Managements betrachtet, unter mannigfaltigen Aspekten unbedingt. Die Entscheider erhalten eine professionelle Diagnose des Unternehmens. Sie hören zu kontroversen Ansichten eine neutrale Meinung und erhalten eine andere Sicht der Entscheidungspraxis. Sie gleichen mit Beraterhilfe Kompetenzdefizite im Unternehmen aus. Sie bekommen Empfehlungen, was in problematischen Situationen zu tun ist. Sie werden in die Lage versetzt, Veränderungen in Gang zu setzen, die ohne Berater oft nicht anzustoßen wären. Read the rest of this entry »


Where Capitalism is a Thing of Beauty

23. August 2010

13. August 2010, 18:06:13 | Chris Meyer & Julia Kirby

Over the past year, we’ve been researching a book on how capitalism will evolve now that its center of gravity is moving away from mature, western economies. Looking around the world for companies that hint at capitalism’s next phase, we’ve tended to focus on businesses that an economist would say belong to an “emerging” stage of development — an ambulance service in Mumbai, for example, or aircraft manufacturer in Brazil. It hadn’t occurred to us that the cosmetics industry might be a source of inspiration.

It’s an industry, after all, that is so easy to see as representing the ugly excesses of the old capitalism. Made up of large companies who spend billions to create brands that delude us with illusions of eternal youth, its main achievement has been to create marketing channels capable of selling elaborate packaging (as well as some useful products, we acknowledge) at huge margins. If the best argument for capitalism is that it allocates resources efficiently, the cosmetics industry would not seem to be Exhibit A. Read the rest of this entry »


Management by Imagination

19. January 2010

11:07 AM Tuesday January 19, 2010, HBR Blog 
by Roger Martin

The perception that good management is closely linked to good measurement runs deep. How often do you hear these old saws repeated: “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t count”; “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”; “If you can’t measure it, it won’t happen”? We like these sayings because they’re comforting. The act of measurement provides security; if we know enough about something to measure it we almost certainly have some control over it.

But however comforting it can be to stick with what we can measure, we run the risk of expunging something really important. What’s more, we won’t see what we’re missing because we don’t know what it is that we don’t know. By sticking simply to what we can measure, we come to imagine a small and constrained world in which we are prisoners of a “reality” that is in fact an edifice we’ve unknowingly constructed around ourselves.

Read the rest of this entry »