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From Resource Allocation to Strategy
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In the intervening 35 years quite a few of business academe's leading thinkers have used this three-layer framework to describe and understand the inner workings of complex organizations. In the process, while the basic framework has remained solid, many nuances and implications have emerged. Furthermore, the RAP model has moved from more descriptive toward becoming more prescriptive. Thus RAP has become increasingly relevant to business practice.
Much of this work, however, has appeared in piecemeal fashion -- insightful, but somewhat disconnected from the underlying theory. This book brings together the varied threads of work in a nicely structured, focused volume. The reader receives direct exposure to the leading thinkers in this school of work. The book provides a concise reference point highlighted by specific cases to bring out the subtleties of the theory and usefulness of the RAP. And happily, the quality of the writing is extremely high and approachable, even for the non-academic reader.
While the more practical business executive may find some of this a bit too academic, that academic-ness is necessary to frame such a broad theory of business. Those who undertake reading this book will be rewarded with useful insights and a clearer understanding of what really makes large organizations tick.
At the same time, and all the more powerfully, there is a consistent and readily evident thread that runs through it all, a thread made evident in thoughtful summary essays for each section: strategy is what you do, and how you decide what to do is the essence of the strategy process. To guide strategy-making, then, is to shape how decisions are made and direct the allocation of resources -- organizational, financial, and human -- toward specific ends.
Getting stuff done in complex organizations is a messy process, and fraught with difficulty, but the insights available in this book make it clear that if this complexity is to be channelled and controlled, it must be embraced, not ignored. Time spent reading this book and reflecting on the insights its many authors offer will pay large dividends.
Full Disclosure: I contributed a chapter to this publication, and am proud of having my work included in this collection. I offer no opinion on my chapter, and instead comment here only on the other chapters.