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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2008
While the book is titled, "Executing the Strategy" it might more accurately be titled "Organizational Alignment" - strategy being only one, albeit the most central, of the domains of the Authors' brilliant and comprehensive Strategic Execution Framework (SEF).

Readers may miss one of the more subtle but most important gifts of the book which is to recognize that most failures in strategic execution come from not managing the interfaces between the various domains of the corporate organism, defined in the SEF: Ideation (Identity, Purpose, Long-Range Intention), Vision (Strategy, Goals, Metrics), Nature( Strategy, Culture, Organizational Structure), Engagement (Strategy, Portfolio Management), Synthesis (Portfolio Management, Program Management, Project Management), and Transition (Program Management, Project Management and Operations).

Theory of Constraints and Six Sigma aficionados take note: the greatest unaccounted for source of variability in organizational performance occurs at the interfaces between these SEF domains. Today, most organizations do not manage these interfaces at more than a superficial level, if at all. Further, the strategy domain directly interfaces with more areas of the corporate organism than any other: culture, structure, goals, metrics, and portfolio. It is no wonder that 70-90% of companies are consistently failing to execute strategies successfully.

The book succeeds well in setting out the SEF, but don't expect guidance on how to go about setting vision or strategy or improving project or portfolio management, changing culture, or setting the right metrics. Rather, each of these domains represents large bodies of knowledge, and this book's purpose is to identify them, and define the interfaces between them. The subtitle, "How to Break it Down & Get it Done" might imply the presence of more nitty-gritty how-to's than this book sets out to provide.

Another major takeaway is that the "lowly" discipline of project management will be the cornerstone of successfully executing strategy in combination with the SEF. Strategy is not just about upper management setting a bold vision in a weekend retreat and saying, "make it so". Strategic planning must account for the ripple effects through all of the organizational domains, and projects need to be chartered, resourced and managed between and within domains for the strategy to be carried off successfully.

The authors provide numerous compelling real-world examples; including many from their own consulting practices to demonstrate how correct organizational alignment leads to success and misalignment leads to failure. The authors have particular experience and success with larger organizations, where the SEF particularly shines. This book is an outstanding and seminal contribution to organizational alignment and strategic execution.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Books on strategy formulation are plentiful, but relatively few have been written on executing strategy. This book is a major contribution in this arena, providing an insightful path for moving from strategy to ongoing operations.

The authors provide a useful six-part model ("strategic execution framework"). As very briefly highlighted by the authors, the six parts are:

- clarifying and communicating identity, purpose, and long-term intention;
- aligning strategy, culture and structure;
- translating long-term intentions into goals, metrics and strategy;
- engaging strategy via the project investments stream;
- monitoring and continuously aligning project work with strategy; and
- transferring projects to operations.
A chapter is devoted to each of these aspects of the model. Reading the chapters will enable you to fully understand and appreciate its usefulness in operational context and from a leadership standpoint.

A keystone is the role of project management in transforming strategic intentions into operational realities.

This book is well organized, crisply written, and rich with practical content, including diagrams, tables, and rating scales to measure your organization. Overall, the authors have created a standout-achievement that will be of value to any organizational leader.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2008
I loved this book. It discusses the essential ingredients to getting from the status quo to a new level in business. Companies need strategies to make a buck. And as time moves forward the strategies have to change in order to be able to continue to make a buck. Whether you are a founder of a startup who wants to create a dynamite business plan, or the leader of an existing business, this book will have something for you.

The book is relatively simple. It only contains 6 chapters, the topics of which include: ideation, vision, nature, engagement, synthesis, and transition. If these six terms don't jump out at you while you read this review, they will after you finish the book. Many people have trouble understanding how to take a strategy and convert it into reality. That is what this book is all about.

This book will help you figure out the best way to execute a strategy so you can do the the right things correctly. If you have to execute a strategy, then use this book to help you first figure what the right things you need to do are. And then use it to help you figure out how to do those things correctly. 5 stars!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2008
To succeed in business it's not just a matter of coming up with good ideas, it's being able to come up with good ideas along with effective ways to implement them. "Executing Your Strategy: How to Break It Down & Get It Done" is the collaborative effort of Mark Morgan (Chief Learning Officer, IPSolutions Inc. and Practice Director of the Stanford Advanced Project Management Program), Raymond E. Levitt (Professor of Civil and Environmental engineering, Stanford University, and Academic Director of the Stanford Advanced Project Management Program), William Malek (Strategy Execution Officer, Strategy2Reality LLC). Corporate executives are show how they can transform strategies into action and in the process, insure successful business outcomes. Six basic steps in this process are covered exhaustively: Ideation; Vision; Nature (corporate culture); Engagement; Synthesis; and Transition. These are principles and concepts that apply to profit-making and non-profit organizations and enterprises alike. Articulate, informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Executing Your Strategy" is a compendium of practical 'tips, tricks and techniques' that should be considered 'must reading' for anyone with a management responsibility, and is a highly recommended, core addition to academic and community library Business Management & Leadership Studies reference collections.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2007
At last - a book that offers the tools for systematically converting strategy into action! I was first introduced to the Strategic Execution Framework (SEF) through Stanford's Advanced Project Management series two years ago. I've successfully used the the SEF to align what we develop to the corporate strategy. Now, as projects are implemented as production systems, I'm using the SEF to align operational processes to the strategy. The book provides the language and the framework to systematically diagnose and correct the execution problems we saw but didn't know how to solve. There are a lot of books on strategy formulation and project management, but very few demonstrate how effective project management is the bridge between strategy and the end-result. This is a must-read for anyone wanting to implement change! Its all about doing the right thing, right!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
With all of the titles focused on better strategy execution, it's easy to wonder if there is anything new left to be written that is worthy of close study. In this case, I found it to contain some true insights in its focus and message.

The first contribution of the book is a pictorial description of the organizational activities needed for strategy execution. It is referred to as the Strategy Execution Framework, or SEF. While not necessarily a new concept, the book does display an unusually clear set of inter-related linkages between the organizational activities -- all the way from the highest strategic planning activities down to the front lines of tactical project management.

So, my first recommendation is to read the book with any eye toward fully appreciating the inter-relationships between the areas in the SEF. Reflect on if they exist and how they operate in your own organization. This is an important seed to plant in your mind.

Second, focus on Chapter 4. To me, the acute specialty of this book is in its assertion that most organizations fail in strategy execution because executives do not understand and personally take part in the alignment, selection, and oversight of projects, programs, and portfolios that work 'on the business,' 'in the business', and on 'transforming the business.' As a seasoned practitioner, I could not agree more.

I recommend reading 'Executing Your Strategy' with the specific intent of figuring out how to improve this gap in your own organization. Nearly every organization I've worked with has this weakness to some degree. Solving this issue could be one of the most significant changes in your organization for the New Year.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Using a wide variety of useful examples from global businesses, Executing Your Strategy provides a highly usable framework for understanding those factors that influence what must be done to successfully execute your strategy. Useful questions and summaries for actions at the end of each chapter let the reader apply the concepts for their particular organization.
Full disclosure: I have worked with all the authors and actually applied the strategic execution framework (SEF) developed in the book for a wide variety of clients--the best reference I can provide is that it is extremely useful in helping organizations of all types (including non-profits)actually prepare for and execute their strategy on Monday morning. It is not shelf-ware. Executing Your Strategy is worth your time and worth sharing with key leaders on your team.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2008
Executives, project managers, and engineers in the construction, aerospace, and pharmaceutical industries, as well as researchers of project-based organization and strategic management, will greatly enjoy this book!

"Executing Your Strategy" offers a holistic, integrative framework to ensure alignment between an organization's purpose, identity, and long range vision; strategy, structure, and culture; goals and metrics; and project, program and portfolio processes.

Intriguing examples from industry leaders are provided to show how the conceptual framework applies in practice.

The book also draws new links between the strategic management and project management literatures, which represent important theoretical advances.

Overall, an important contribution, both theoretically novel and practically relevant!
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34 of 49 people found the following review helpful
It's hard to get positive about a management book that begins with a ridiculous quote: "There may be a thousand little choices in a day. All of them count." Ever hear of Pareto's Law?

The first paragraph then tells us that "The spectacular flameouts of Carly Fiorina at HP, John Akers at IBM, John Sculley at Apple, and Pehr Gyllenhammar at Volvo are merely a few high-profile examples among thousands of CEOs whose strategies fail every year because of poor execution."

But it's just not true. Gyllenhammar failed because his strategy (make factory jobs less repetitious, and more interesting) created higher costs and lower quality - especially vs. the Toyota Production System. Carly Fiorina failed partly because of her abrasive personality, poor focus (her management meetings were dreaded), and lack of a quantitative approach, but mostly because her focus on creating a single sales force created poor performance, reduced accountability, and high costs; similarly, keeping the PC and printer units together allowed the latter to cover up the former's weaknesses. John Akers made three enormous strategic errors - failing to see the future in manufacturing PCs (allowing Intel to create a commodity market that IBM was unable to add significant value to), allowing Microsoft to take over the market for PC software, and not moving to solidify IBM as an overall problem-solver instead of hardware seller. Finally, John Sculley wanted to destroy Apple's competitive advantage (its easier-to-use software and uniqueness) and become a commodity PC producer selling to large corporations.

Summarizing, "Executing Strategy" makes two unrecoverable blunders in the first half-page, goes on to conclude that "something like 90% of companies consistently fail to execute strategies effectively," and then focuses the next 260 pages on good execution (extremely likely, given its flaunting of Pareto's insights) of what are highly likely to be flawed strategies.

Readers would be much better served reading material that guides deciding what business their company is in (Drucker), determining the relative roles of low costs and high quality, fast new product development (possibly each has a role in differing areas of the company), fast operational change, and how to establish a sustainable competitive advantage.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
In this volume, Mark Morgan, Raymond Levitt, and William Malek focus their attention on "engaging in strategic project portfolio management for successful execution" and more specifically on the six domains of the strategic execution network, their acronym INVEST: Ideation (clarify and communicate purpose, identity and long- range intention), Nature (develop alignment between and among strategy, structure, and culture based on ideation), Vision (create clear goals and metrics aligned to strategy and guided by ideation), Engagement (engage the strategy via the investment stream), Synthesis (do projects and programs right, in alignment with portfolio), and Transition (transfer the projects and program outputs into operations where their benefits can be realized). Morgan, Levitt, and Malek devote a separate chapter to each. In the final chapter, they respond to a question their reader has no doubt by then asked: "Where should we start?" Although much (if not most) of this material examines strategy execution in an organization, the authors use Lance Armstrong as an example of how an individual can also "align all the [strategy-making] domains and invest every precious minute, and every personal resource, accordingly."

I was especially interested in the material provided in Chapter Three as the authors examine how to align an organization's culture and structure with its strategy. This is precisely the approach Louis Gerstner took after be assumed his duties as CEO of IBM. His mindset could be described as "outside-in" as he carefully determined how to achieve a strategic fit with IBM's external environment and then redefined his company's "nature." That is, he ensured that strategy, structure, and culture in the nature domain were in proper alignment with the ideation and vision domains. That is why IBM, previously a maker of branded products, redefined its "nature" to be that of a provider of custom integrated IT solutions for its global clients.

Morgan, Levitt, and Malek note that, in contrast, many strategists "focus on designing strategies that fit the external environment. They underestimate, as [Carly] Fiorina and the HP board appear to have done, the equally important issue of strategic fit with the internal environment. As [Mark] Hurd's early results revealed, the idea of combining with Compaq was not inherently flawed but misaligned with the nature of HP - its DNA as Gerstner would put it." I presume to add that, to a lesser extent, the same challenges await those companies that are considering a strategic alliance.

In the same chapter, they also examine four generic types of culture and agree with William Schneider (author of The Reengineering Alternative: A Plan for Making Your Current Culture Work) that in each of the four, its members share a dominant value. For example, "A competence culture believes in the `Field of Dreams' principle: make great products and people will flock to buy them. It values technical values above all else." The other types of culture are Collaboration (understanding the unique needs of customers), Cultivation (recruiting, retaining, and nurturing creative employees to produce unique products), and Control (low cost production of standard outputs).

Readers will appreciate the authors' skillful use of dozens of Tables and Figures throughout their lively narrative that consolidate key points. In Chapter 3, for example, the Tables illustrate "The four archetypes of organizational culture" (Page 101), Measure your organization's culture" (Page 135), "Measure you organization's structure" (Page 136), and "Measure your organization's strategy within the nature domain" (Page 137). In the same chapter, these are the Figures: "The nature imperative: Invest in projects to align culture, structure, and strategy" (Page 94), Align strategy with culture: Charting your culture egg" (Page 101), "The culture egg for a custom manufacturer" (Page 102), "Template for testing the alignment of strategy and culture" (Page 103), "HP's strategy-culture alignment map" (Page 103), "Formal matrix combines functional excellence with product/program focus" (Page 113), "Identify the apprriate alignment of strategy, structure, and culture" (Page 115), and "Achieving the nature imperative at DPR [Construction]: Aligning strategy, structure, and culture required careful ongoing investments" (Page 133). The other five chapters have equally informative Tables and Figures; also additional real-world examples of how some companies successfully executed strategies and other companies tried but failed to do so.

In the final chapter, the authors reiterate six imperatives of strategic execution (first displayed by Table 1.1 on Page 17 and then duplicated by Table C-1, Page 241), cite several real-world examples (e.g. Airbus and the perils of misalignment), discuss Lance Armstrong and the lessons to be learned from his successful execution of various strategies, and then pose what they call six "Acid Test Questions (on Pages 256-257) that could be read first, before proceeding through the Introduction and the six chapters. I wish I had done so because they provide an especially valuable frame of refernce for the wealth of information, insights, and recommendations that Morgan, Levitt, and Malek provide.

Their book is a brilliant achivement.

* * * * *

Those who share my high regard for it are urged to check out Schneider's aforementioned book as well as Lawrence Hrebiniak's Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change and Doing What Matters: How to Get Results That Make a Difference - The Revolutionary Old-School Approach co-authored by James Kilt with John Manfredi and Robert Lorder. Also A.G. Lafley and Ram Charan's The Game-Changer: How You Can Drive Revenue and Profit Growth with Innovation, Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis' Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls, Dean Spitzer's Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success, and Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution co-authored by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson.
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