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Competing on the Edge : Strategy as Structured Chaos Hardcover – May 20, 1998
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The authors contend that competing on the edge is not an efficient or predictable way to do business. Instead, it's learning how to adapt and lead in a business environment that's in a constant state of flux. "The underlying insight behind competing on the edge is that strategy is the result of a firm's organizing to change constantly and letting a semicoherent strategic direction emerge from that organization. In other words, it is about combining the two parts of strategy by simultaneously addressing where you want to go and how you are going to get there."
Brown and Eisenhardt offer dozens of examples of companies that are successfully and not so successfully finding that balance between anarchy and order. If, on the one hand, you feel like your company is bogged down by rules and bureaucracy or if,on the other, it seems like no one in your company knows exactly what they're doing, you'll find that Competing on the Edge is a valuable handbook for change. The book is clearly written, full of insight, and belongs on every manager's bookshelf. Highly recommended. --Harry C. Edwards
"If you want to learn something new about meeting the challenges of rapid change, read...Competing on the Edge: Strategy as Structured Chaos by Shona L. Brown, a McKinsey & Co. consultant, and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, a Stanford business-school professor. Chapter six, "Setting the Pace," is worth the price of admission all by itself. In that chapter, the authors describe how Intel uses "time pacing" to enter new markets and to create new products, services, and businesses according to the calendar rather than in response to competitive events." -- Inc. Magazine, June 1998
"The authors make a compelling argument for a proactive approach to change and offer a practical vision of the road to take when embarking on such a mission." -- Choice, October 1998
This well-written volume about managing in an environment of constant change takes as its context complexity theory--the decade-old scientific perspective often associated with the Santa Fe Institute and concepts such as artificial life. The authors--Shona L. Brown, a consultant with McKinsey & Co., and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, a Stanford University professor--emphasize examples of successful management that are as complex and unexpected as the theory itself. The authors distill 10 rules of strategy, organization and leadership for competing on the edge and then compare them with traditional rules of management. For those who can live with fundamental ambiguity, the examples make clear how powerful and successful this unorthodox approach can be. -- Upside, Stephen E. DeLong
Top Customer Reviews
This book should be required reading for anyone who manages, does business with, invests in, or regulates--or plans to do so--firms in fast-moving environments.
The authors identify three key concepts to managing change on a continuous basis: managing on the edge of chaos, managing on the edge of time and time pacing. Each of these concepts is illustrated via the identification and explication of a series of "traps" that, should the managers fall in, result in their companies becoming non-competitors in their industries. The traps are, in turn, detailed by references to a set of disguised studies that form the underpinning for concepts, and brought to life by reference to reinterpreted information about a variety of organizations that have appeared in the business and popular press. One aspect of the book that managers, especially, should appreciate-for Brown and Eisenhardt strategic management does not mean strategy formulation alone; it also includes implementation
The book is eminently readable, with a scattering of side-bar boxes containing specific information on concepts raised in the text. The examples employed are nothing short of innovative--when is the last time you saw a management book that used the ecology of a prairie, caribou hunting and the Tour de France to illustrate points about strategy?
Competing on the Edge is an excellent way to acquaint practicing managers as well as students in MBA programs with the latest concepts for managing organizations in situations where rapid change is the norm. It will certainly be required reading for my graduate course on Strategic Analysis for High Technology Industries.
* It is unpredictable. Competing on the edge is about surprise.
* It is uncontrolled. It is not about command and precision planning by senior executives.
* It is inefficient. Competing on the edge is not necessarily efficient in the short term.
* It is proactive. Competing on the edge is not about passively watching for the occasional discontinuity or waiting for other firms to move before taking action.
* It is continuous. It is about a rhythm of moves over time; not a set of disjointed actions.
* It is diverse. Competing on the edge is about making a variety of moves with varying scale and risk.
In this context, they write that "the premise of this book is that change is pervasive. The implcation is that the key strategic challenge facing managers in many contemporary businesses is managing this change. The challenge is to react quickly, anticipate when possible, and lead change where appropriate. A manager's dilemma is how to do this, not just once or every now and then, but consistently. Our book has argued that competing on the edge is the unpredictable, often uncontrolled, and even inefficient strategy that nonetheless defines best practice when change is pervasive." And,then, they list ten rules of competing on the edge that articulate the key assumptions and best practices about strategy, organization, and leadership that they have found to characterize firms that compete on the edge:
Rule 1. Advantage is temporary.
Rule 2. Strategy is diverse, emergent, and complicated.
Rule 3. Reinvention is the goal.
Rule 4. Live in the present.
Rule 5. Stretch out the past.
Rule 6. Reach into the future.
Rule 7. Time pace change.
Rule 8. Grow the strategy.
Rule 9. Drive strategy from the business level.
Rule 10. Repatch businesses to markets and articulate the whole.