- File Size: 4276 KB
- Print Length: 256 pages
- Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (December 18, 2018)
- Publication Date: December 18, 2018
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07D1RHSF9
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,421 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Digital List Price:||$19.99|
|Print List Price:||$19.95|
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HBR Guide to Thinking Strategically (HBR Guide Series) Kindle Edition
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About the Author
Harvard Business Review is the leading destination for smart management thinking. Through its flagship magazine, 13 international licensed editions, books from Harvard Business Review Press, and digital content and tools published on HBR.org, Harvard Business Review provides professionals around the world with rigorous insights and best practices to lead themselves and their organizations more effectively and to make a positive impact.--This text refers to the hardcover edition.
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Much has been written about formulating strategy, but this is an event that once ended, is left to be executed by strategic thinkers. This is the first comprehensive book I have read on how to be that person, at any leadership level.
The authors describe strategic thinking as “analyzing opportunities and problems from a broad perspective, and understanding the potential impact your actions might have on the future of your organization, your team, or your bottom line.”
The strategic genius, Professor Rumelt titled his seminal book, ‘Good Strategy, Bad Strategy’ because he believes strategy is either one or the other. There is no other option. In similar vein I have observed that people are either good strategic thinkers or bad strategic thinkers, there is no third category.
Strategic thinking begins with going beyond your day-to-day activities and considering the larger environment in which you’re operating. It starts with asking questions and challenging assumptions about how things operate in your company and industry. Based on strategic thinking, you are able to make daily decisions about how you and your team should be spending your time.
This is the only way you ensure that every choice you make, and every action you take, drives results that matter to the organization. On even cursory reflection, this is an obvious requirement of every successful manager at every level.
Strategic thinking is not a natural way of thinking, rather it is a skill that is learned deliberately, or less often, by osmosis in an environment of strategic thinkers.
Strategic thinking starts with an understanding of the company’s strategy. At whatever level one operates, this is what one is employed to do. Period. If it is a good strategy, you will able to claim that you are partly responsible for its success. If it is a bad strategy, you will able to claim that you worked as effectively as you could to try and get the best out of a bad strategy.
William Schiemann reports that only 14% of organizations he surveyed, claimed that their employees had a clear understanding of their company’s strategy and direction, and that only 24% felt the strategy was linked to their individual accountabilities and capabilities.
The characteristics of a strategic thinker have received attention in the leadership literature. However, this is “usually in isolation and seldom in the special context of high stakes and deep uncertainty that can make or break both companies and careers”, the authors explain.
People who think strategically have specific personal traits, behaviors, and attitudes, the first of which is curiosity about – well, everything – what is going on in the company, in the industry, in the country, amongst competitors, and more. And then they question whether they and their units are focused on the right things. Their focus is on the future and how the unit and company’s operations may change in the coming months and years.
To be a strategic leader, not just a strategic thinker, requires consistency. The objective that you pursue, must be persistently pursued, but this must be combined with the agility to adapt approaches and shift ideas when new information is received.
A fundamental of strategic thinking is learning: the gathering of knowledge and information. This often complex, sometimes ambiguous body of data, must be interpreted to get the insights you can use to make smart choices and select appropriate courses of action.
There are many ways to deal with this confusion, but the authors offer effective and easily applied approaches. These include: talking to your customers, suppliers, and other partners to understand their challenges; using simple scenarios to imagine various futures so you can prepare for the unexpected; looking at fast-growing rivals, and examining the actions they have taken that puzzle you. (For example, why did they have a sale early this year, but of much fewer items that everyone else.)
You could use the “five whys” of Sakichi Toyoda, (Toyota’s founder). Why did this happen? And when you have an answer, ask a “why” on that answer, and so on five times to get to the heart of the matter.
Finland’s former president J. K. Paasikivi was fond of saying that wisdom begins by recognizing the facts and then “re-cognizing,” or rethinking them, to expose their hidden implications.
When analyzing ambiguous data, the authors suggest, list at least three possible explanations for the data, and invite perspectives from others.
When you advance from strategic thinking, to the decision and action phase of being a strategic leader, insist on multiple options right at the beginning. Avoid getting prematurely locked into simplistic go/no-go choices of the Brexit variey. Reframe binary decisions by asking your colleagues, “What other options do we have?” And then make your decision based on the long-term, not the short-term.
As a strategic thinker, the recurring question that you must ask yourself is, how your actions create value that can maximize your contribution to your organization, and set you up for success. You will find this book is extraordinarily valuable. It has no 'breakthrough', new material; everything has been said more fully elsewhere before, but never as a concise guide, all in one place.
Readability Light -+--- Serious
Valuable Insights Many --+-- Few
Practical application High +---- Low
Ian Mann consults internationally on strategy and implementation and is the author of “Strategy That Works” and the “Executive Update”.
And it could be no other way! We know from psychology that we, humans, have a bounded rationality (limited capacity to process even the low amount of information we have) and there is no need for an axiom to know that time is one of our limited resources. Due to this we cannot excel in two relatively opposing skills. Because strategy means doing different things or doing the same things differently, strategy formulation is the realm where innovators thrive while strategy execution is the realm of conformists and followers, a realm where most of the things have to be either clear, or around the area of their “known universe”. The same goes for skills in different disciplines or areas of specialization and if you add human skills on top of that, strategy becomes a big scary monster who nobody wants to touch.
Unlike the previous 2 books on strategy, this one is closer to strategy execution and to what the people who execute the strategy need to know. It is indeed a guide because helps the reader navigate through practical situations. It contains 29 short articles (see amazon.com for table of contents), articles that could annoy some people because it is indeed about thinking. What I mean by this is that, depending on the situation described, the reader has to ask himself a carefully sequenced (fits the hierarchy of organizational mechanisms) set of questions in order to align her/his thinking with the strategy of the company and with the bigger picture. This thought process can take a lot of time and generate a lot of frustration, especially when you have missing pieces of the puzzle.
THE MOST IMPORTANT ARTICLE?
Due to the fact that in real organizations the strategy is rarely crystal clear, I consider that the last article, “When the Strategy Is Unclear, in Flux, or Always Changing”, can bring value to many strategy-executing managers and save them from a lot of pain. It describes what actions they can constructively take meanwhile.
WHO MAY FIND THE BOOK USEFUL?
1. Executives and strategists who not only need to think strategically to formulate the strategy but they also need to understand the troubles of the lower levels in order to build effectiveness into the strategy for a smooth execution.
2. Every manager because the whole company has to be aligned and work in the same direction. Moreover, every manager has to understand the strategy, translate it to their reports and facilitate their work while, in the same time, they have to keep an eye on how the work of the unit they lead impacts the work of other units.
3. Every employee or manager who aspires to be promoted, because strategic thinking is not only about strategy but also about understanding different perspectives and fitting them into a bigger picture; the upper they rise in hierarchy, the more perspectives they have to integrate and the picture gets bigger and bigger.
4. In general terms, everybody, because thinking leads to understanding which is one step closer to motivation and collaboration and, in the end, mutual benefits. And if we think in systems, this creates a self-reinforcing loop which leads to more and more value and mutual benefits being generated.
There is no shortage of things that can go wrong with strategy but, the devil is not so black. There’s always a book waiting to be found for everything! I may be biased toward loving this book because it involves a lot thinking and reflecting and this is “my thing”, but I hope you enjoy it at least as much as I did.
However if you are looking for quick reference about strategy development and execution, this guide is valuable. It includes several chapters from great authors who share good approaches, frameworks, tools and trips.
I personally like the section on "Move from Thinking Strategically to Executing the Strategy".