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Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution Hardcover – November 16, 2010

14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“While leaders cannot always have the right answers, they must know how to ask the right questions to drive strategy. Simons captures the power of this leadership approach in a highly inspiring and engaging way. It is essential reading for experienced managers as well as for everyone new to a leadership role.”

Kasper Rorsted, CEO, Henkel Germany

“Simons’s book is a concise reminder of the critical questions that successful CEOs must constantly ask themselves in a rapidly changing world.”

John Rowe, Chairman and CEO, Exelon Corporation

“Seven Strategy Questions recognizes that every business creates value for customers differently, and sets out a useful framework for challenging strategic assumptions and gaining focus. The book provides invaluable insight for any business leader.”

Ron Williams, Chairman and CEO, Aetna Inc.

“I highly recommend this book as a must-read for CEOs and other senior executives. Simons has distilled the essence of competing and winning in the marketplace down to seven hard-hitting, high-impact questions that all of us should have in mind as we manage in the unpredictable and much-less-forgiving ‘new normal.’”

Nils Andersen, Group CEO of A.P. Møller-Maersk

"Simons provides a remarkably insightful path to clarity in defining and executing strategy, guiding us away from distractions and worse. Though closing with a question about what keeps you up at night, this book will help you sleep better."

Arne M. Sorenson, President and COO, Marriott International

About the Author

Robert Simons is the Charles M. Williams Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. For twenty-five years, he has taught accounting, management control, and strategy implementation courses in the Harvard MBA and Executive Education programs. His research has been published in journals including Sloan Management Review and Strategic Management Journal.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1St Edition edition (November 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 142213332X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422133323
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #258,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David C. Smith on December 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If you are looking for a book on how to develop your company's strategy - this isn't it. Yes, it is important for a company to spend time and effort to formulate their strategy, but execution of the strategy is often given less thought and planning. The seven questions in this book get you thinking about execution, which is the reason you have a strategy in the first place. The questions are presented as chapters and include the following topics; Customers, Core Values, Performance Measures, Boundaries, Tension, Commitment, and Uncertainty. While all the chapters of the book are well presented I found the two related to performance variables and core values to be the most interesting.

Performance measures are often presumed within an organization rather than an area that is continually analyzed for impact and support of the company's overall strategy. Managers may measure certain variables because that is the norm or expectation within a company without a clear understanding of which variables are actually the most important and how they are linked to the company's overall strategy. The chapter related great examples from large organizations like Citibank, Marriott, and Home Depot but I think a basic example of this type of presumed measurement is sales management reporting. Sales managers have all sorts of variables to measure; dollars, customer interaction, pipeline growth, deal closure time, and so forth, and will often jump from activity based reporting to performance reporting without a clear relationship of how and what measures relate up to the strategy of the company. Their intentions are good ("we want better results") but their performance measures may not compliment and support the overall strategy.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John Gibbs on November 16, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Executing strategy successfully requires tough, often uncomfortable, choices based on simple logic and clear principles, according to Harvard Business School Professor Robert Simons in this book. However, the correct solutions to complex business problems are different for every business. That is why he wrote the book in the form of simple questions designed to help the reader focus on the key issues that underpin important decisions.

The questions which the author proposes really do get you thinking. There are many different creative possibilities for identifying the "primary customer" of a business, an identification on which you need to base the allocation of resources. There is no one right answer to the prioritization of customers, shareholders and employees, but you need to know whose interest comes first when facing difficult trade-offs. There are many different things about your business which can be measured, but you need to identify a small number of metrics that really are critical to your business success.

Strategic boundaries need to be identified to control strategic risk. An appropriate level of creative tension needs to be cultivated in order to sustain innovation. You need to identify whether your business success is based more on employees' self-interest or co-operation, and set your policies accordingly. To ensure that your business adapts appropriately to change, you need to keep the organization focused on the critical strategic uncertainties.

Most strategy books focus primarily on external marketing strategies. This one focuses more on internal management issues.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rod Jahner on October 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Robert Simons' latest book is not only a winner, it is a must read AND implement for any senior manager.
Finally a straightforward guide for leaders that does not promise a magic bullet, but rather identifies the critical questions that they must continually ask. If 15 years of training and executive development has taught me anything, it is that everything changes and management often does not recognize risk before it is too late. I recommended this book to five of my President/CEO friends immediately.
Amazon allows you to read the introduction for free. Take five minutes to do so and you will be hooked.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By George Bush HALL OF FAME on November 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
1)Who is your primary customer? Simon contends that 'multiple customers' is a certain path to underperformance. The answer determines how you allocate resources. Trying to accommodate multiple kinds of customers led to trouble at both McDonald's and Home Depot. McDonald's same-store sales were declining in 2003 and the new CEO realized consumers' tastes differ widely by region and countries. McDonald's then reallocated from centralized corporate functions to regional managers, who were then encouraged to customize local menus and store amenities. Home Depot suffered in the early 2000s from splitting its allegiance between consumers and professional contractors, laying off customer service employees and spending the savings on 30 wholesale housing-supply companies. Turned out neither group was well served and a new CEO sold off its wholesale businesses, increased the number of customer service personnel, and rehired master trade specialists to offer how-to-advice. Satisfaction scores, same-store sales and profits rebounded.

My perspective: Simons greatly overstates his point, and may not even have one of value. Many, many firms have 'multiple customers' - eg. G.E. makes jet engines for a wide range and type of jets, as well as Boeing/Airbus and individual airlines. Most large bicycle firms have offerings for casual cyclists up to dedicated racers, etc.

2)How do your core values prioritize shareholders, employees, and customers? Simons contends there is no 'correct answer,' citing Merck (patients first), Pfizer (shareholders first), and Southwest Airlines (employees first).

My perspective: CEOs need to balance the interests of shareholders, and sometimes those rankings may change as situations change.

3)What critical performance variables are you tracking?
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