Book Review

Date: Nov 29, 2018
Category: Review Category

Thesis

The main idea that the author has undertaken is the importance of evaluating a strategy from a strategist’s perspective. From the beginning of the book, the author clarifies that the views expressed do not contradict the conventional analysis of strategy, but provide it with a holistic view. Therefore, the thesis of the book focuses on how to become a strategist, which is critical to the success of businesses.

Central Pillars

From the review of the book, several lessons can be derived, which were not clear before reading it. The first learning outcome is that the strategy and leadership are intertwined and inseparable. Learning about the inseparability nature of strategy and organizational leadership is essential because it deviates from the normal view of strategy in the current business environment. Organizations have become used to the idea of enlisting specialists in strategy formulation to guide their firms in the process. The experts get involved in the creation of a strategy by identifying the opportunities available and then planning how to exploit them. Once the strategy is created, the implementation process is taken over by the managers of the companies. The problem posed by this arrangement is that the implementation is more challenging than the strategy crafting. The strategy formation process cannot perceive the reality of the business environment in the future, which affects the implementation phase. Therefore, the leaders in organizations are left with the dilemma of adjusting strategies they did not formulate to match prevailing environmental conditions. When organizational leaders guide the creation of strategies, they can easily adapt it to changing conditions in the market. The management process involves decision making, which is a core function of organizational leaders. Therefore, separating the leadership with strategy making is a mistake that is likely to cost organizations heavily in the future.

The second learning outcome from the book is that an effective strategist must be able to form an effective purpose for an organization. Through the use of various organizations such as Apple and IKEA, the author of the book has argued that the beginning of a successful organization depends on how efficient its leader is as a strategist. One critical role played by a strategic leader is providing a purpose and sense of direction to a corporation. An effective purpose defines the role of the organization and what it plans to accomplish. The importance of such a purpose is to create a perception in customers, employees and other stakeholders about how the company should be. A strategist understands that the purpose statement of a firm must distinguish the activities in which the company will venture and those it will avoid. A distinction is crucial so that all the efforts and energy can be channelled towards specific endeavours, which can create unique value for the firm and lead to differentiation. Differentiation, especially in industries with great competitive forces provides a business with a competitive advantage. Finally, a good purpose sets the stage upon which all the resources of a firm can be enhanced in order to create the value envisioned in the strategy.

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The third lesson is that the challenges associated with strategies do not end at identification and defining the way forward. On the contrary, the biggest challenge is to ensure that the strategies remain vibrant even in the future. Sometimes, changes in the market occur in a manner not foreseen when the strategic plans are made. The changes may require a shift in strategies for a firm to remain viable and competitive. Such a requirement clearly shows the need for a strategist. Business leaders need to provide guidance to organizations constantly by clarifying strategic requirements and showing employees how to deal with changes in the market. The duty of a strategist in the strategy implementation is daunting because some of the decisions required involve high risks that can lead to the total failure of a company. Either way, the manager must make the decisions even when their outcomes are totally unpredictable. Therefore, the most challenging task is the implementation of a strategy because it deals with the real challenges on the ground.

Discussion

The lessons from the book are vital for future managers in several different perspectives. Firstly, book tells how future managers can learn good strategists by reading the failures and successes of the different corporations analyzed in the book. For instance, the case of Masco Corporation presents lessons that are uncommon in many conventional management analysis. The company had the means to venture into the furniture industry; the opportunity was available from the analysis of the market forces. In addition, the company had good management skills and possessed high levels of innovation. Despite these advantages and capabilities, it failed. It incurred heavy losses that it had not encountered in for more than 30 years of operation. The case reveals the importance of understanding the meaning of the various market forces as opposed to just identifying them. Although the conditions indicated an opportunity for easy entry and probable success, the company did not interpret the meaning of the conditions. Had the leader of the corporation interpreted the conditions properly, he would have realized that operating in that industry could not generate the required revenues and profits. Therefore, the ability to interpret the market forces is more critical than just identifying them.

Secondly, book entails the myth of the super-manager. The myth asserts that once a manager is skilful, visionary and bold, he/she can succeed in any industry or business. The myth discredits the potential of forces in different industries and their effect on their management abilities. However, the case of Masco is an indication of how disastrous the myth can be. Managers can draw an essential lesson that even the most successful business leaders must appreciate the limitations of their leadership, which are caused by factors in the external environment. The choice of industry in which to operate is vital and can cripple the efforts of veteran managers when not properly considered.

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Thirdly, managers can learn how to become strategists by following the guidelines in the book. The author asserts that an important ingredient for managers to become strategists is willingness to learn new ways of doing things (Montgomery, 2012). The book outlines the fundamental questions that each strategist must grapple with in order to succeed in business. Managers who aspire to be strategists must consider whether their firms make any difference to the world and whether that difference matters. Companies that are led by strategists have unique features that are difficult to imitate. Moreover, strategic leaders ensure that current organizational activities provide future growth chances for the corporation. The information on how to become a successful strategist provided by the book can form the basis upon which future managers can improve their leadership. A strategist enables a company to organize its value creating activities in a manner likely to generate sustainability.

Conclusion

In conclusion, evaluating strategies from the point of view of the business leader as a strategist provides useful insights on how to be a unique manager. It dispels many historical myths about management and focuses on practical and measurable outcomes of a business. Indeed, the book achieves the purpose of improving the strategic management process by focussing on the strategists and not only on the strategy.

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