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The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (March 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591397820
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591397823
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 3.7 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“[Kiechel’s] ‘The Lords of Strategy’ is a clear, deft and cogent portrait of what the author calls the most powerful business idea of the past half-century…” – The Wall Street Journal

“This enjoyable book deserves consideration for your physical or virtual bookshelf.” — The Journal of Product Innovation Management

“I must say that you’ve written a great book that reads almost like a juicy tell all.” – Consulting Magazine

“Even though we are only 4 months into 2010, it is pretty likely this is going to be the best business book of the year for me. If you are considering, currently in, or recently graduated from, an MBA program, you really must read this book. If this book had been written 10 years ago, it would have saved me a good deal of trouble making my own career decisions.” – RibbonFarm.com

Named one of “5 Smart Books” on the origins of the strategies – SmartMoney.com

“…Kiechel has done a real service…in bringing his subject to life. The book serves as a primer as well as a history, and as such almost any executive or B-school student would do well to pick it up.” —The Conference Board Review

“engaging book” - Strategy + Business

About the Author

Walter Kiechel III has been the editorial director of Harvard Business Publishing and the managing editor at Fortune magazine. He has written articles and columns on all aspects of business, and is the author of a previous book, Office Hours: A Guide to the Managerial Life (Little, Brown, 1989). He received AB, MBA, and JD degrees from Harvard, and served five years in the U.S. Navy.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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The book will be enjoyed best by MBA types - especially strategy consultants.
Brian Egras
The former managing editor at Fortune Magazine, Walter Kiechel III, explains the history of ideas in the field of strategy over the past 40 years in this book.
John Gibbs
Not to mention, the book is very well written from a stylistic and structural point of view.
Oscar Wilde

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

118 of 121 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Swystun on March 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The debate over the value of high-level strategic consultants and academics has waged for decades. I was one such consultant for the better part of ten years who often spent the first part of any conversation defending my profession (I have since moved to advertising and now defend that profession). Kiechel covers the rise of strategy consulting firms--BCG, McKinsey, and Bain--and notable business school professors who contributed to the strategy revolution. His background provides the credibility to do so, he was a former Managing Editor at Fortune magazine and was the Editorial Director of Harvard Business Publishing from 1998 to 2002.

He sees the best strategists as objective intellectuals who see patterns of evidence and put them through conceptual frameworks to produce pragmatic insights. This largely began in the sixties and seventies when strategy began to be systematized and integrated. Cost, customer and competitors were the three primary areas strategists looked for patterns to exploit. In the nineties, the practices were more fad-like including reengineering and total quality management. This was the era I practiced in and I felt like the lone voice extolling the virtue of a simple but robust strategic planning process. I jumped for joy when in June, 1997, BusinessWeek had on their cover, The Return of Strategic Planning: Once More With Feeling. Which was the pivot point for Taylorism-like monitoring and measurement processes becoming more humanistic and holistic in their design.

The author tells some great industry stories but what struck me is just how important the role of strategy and management consultants is to business. The influence that such a small number of people and firms have had on modern business is truly staggering.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By John Gibbs TOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Those who have studied business have probably heard of the Boston Consulting Group Matrix, the McKinsey 7-S Framework, Michael Porter's Value Chain, and various other strategy tools. But where did they all come from, and how did the theory behind them develop? The former managing editor at Fortune Magazine, Walter Kiechel III, explains the history of ideas in the field of strategy over the past 40 years in this book.

This is the most interesting book on strategy that I have read, because it tells the story of the individuals and consulting firms who created the strategy concepts and tools which revolutionised corporations around the world towards the end of the 20th century. The idiosyncrasies of brilliant strategists are described, as are their struggles to have their ideas accepted. The author's personal knowledge of the major players makes the narrative more compelling.

The author even-handedly discusses both the good points and the bad points of the various strategic ideas, but on the whole he is an admirer of the lords of strategy and tends to exonerate them from blame for the mess the world now finds itself in, whereas others might be inclined to accuse them of encouraging companies to undertake unwise levels of risk in order to maximise short-term shareholder returns. I found some parts of the book a bit dry, but for the most part it was highly engaging.
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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful By E. McNulty on February 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the Lords of Strategy, Walter Kiechel deftly unpacks many of the ideas that many of us take for granted -- from competitive advantage to value chain to core competencies -- and explains their history, impact, and relevance with insight and wit. He takes material that could have been as dry as day-old toast and instead creates an engaging and compelling read.

Kiechel approaches his subject neither with reverence nor venom: he helps us understand the pioneering thinkers who created the world of "business strategy" by exploring the ways in which they reshaped the corporate landscape, how their personalities influenced their work, and the lasting impact (for better and worse) that they have had. He's equally prescient about how the Lords bolstered the careers of their client CEOs and enriched shareholders (eventually) -- and why, especially for middle managers, a deep consulting engagement can feel more like a rectal exam than an exercise in improving the company. He traces the rising dominance of left-brained analytical thinking in the consulting firm and the executive suite as well as the increasing "fierceness" of capitalism.

I've learned more reading this book than in any 10 average business books (and I've read a lot of them). It really is a must-read for anyone in business or entering the corporate world. It will explain much, prepare you well, and expand your understanding of contemporary business thinking.

Full disclosure: the author is a former colleague. The principal impact that has had on this review is that I can say unabashedly that in this book he demonstrates the same erudition, wit, and ability to bring together seemingly disparate ideas, people, and events into a thoroughly compelling narrative just as he did when we worked together. I've already purchased multiple copies of this book for associates so my money is co-located with my mouth.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Brian Egras on October 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let's clarify what The Lords of Strategy is and what it isn't.

It is ...

... a historical view of the strategy consulting industry as driven by Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Co., and McKinsey& Co. in the US, and eventually worldwide, from 1963 until 2010. Some other consultancies are acknowledged to have existed but with minimal impact on the industry.

... a look into the careers and personalities that were successful in influencing the strategy consulting industry, in how clients were procured, how projects were run, and how the products/ideas that were sold.

... a view that the academic contributions to business strategy thought stemmed mostly from Michael Porter alone although sometimes with some help from a handful of others with Harvard connections.

... a rosy view of strategy consultants and their work. There are times when the author talks about when the consultants steered into some trouble, but they come off as brilliant, well-intentioned souls who have made the world a far better place.

... a well-written story. M. Kiechel tells the tale in a very readable manner and likes to pepper in words that you don't often read in business books. If you like reading lines like this, "Begin with the element of propinquity.", you will enjoy reading this book.

... biased towards all things associated with Harvard. M. Kiechel goes a long way to explain the education credentials of people and ideas and how they relate in some way to Harvard. It starts to feel like the author is being paid for a Harvard commercial, and it gets tedious by the end.

It is not ...

... a beginner's guide to business strategy. The reader is assumed to have some familiarity with the subject.
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