Useful introduction to the ideas of leading strategy experts

There are plenty of books available on strategy, but most business leaders do not have a lot of time to read them. Where can you go to get a reasonably-priced introduction to the ideas of some of the leading experts on business strategy? HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Strategy is one possible answer. It includes essays on strategy and the five competitive forces by Michael Porter, building a vision by Collins and Porras, blue ocean strategy by Kim and Mauborgne, and the balanced scorecard by Kaplan and Norton.

Although I found the essays by each of the above-mentioned authors less inspiring and enlightening than their books on the same subjects, this compilation does give a good introduction to their ideas, and will help the reader discern whether to take the next step and read the authors’ books. Each essay contains sidebars including an “Idea in Brief” sidebar which will help the busy reader further; however, in the Kindle version the sidebars simply appear in the main text, which interrupts the flow and can lead to confusion.

Not all strategic advice is good advice. In my view the advice given in the essay “Transforming Corner-Office Strategy into Frontline Action” leaves something to be desired. The idea of distilling a company’s entire strategy into “one pithy, memorable and descriptive phrase” may appeal to some, but I really struggle to see its value. Examples include AOL (“Consumer Connectivity first – anytime, anywhere”), GE (“Be number one or number two in every industry in which we compete, or get out”), Dell (“Be direct”), and eBay (“Focus on trading communities”). Do any of these actually communicate useful strategies, or are they meaningless mantras?

On the other hand, I found the other essays on essentially the same topic (turning strategy into action) quite useful. “The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution” by Neilson, Martin and Powers and “Turning Great Strategy into Great Performance” by Mankins and Steele gave some very practical steps which a leadership team can take to make a strategy actually happen. All up, I recommend this book as a valuable introduction to strategy.

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