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The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs Hardcover – May 8, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Cynthia Montgomery stimulates you as a business leader, to be owner, creator and ongoing steward of your company’s strategy. She uses her vast experiences in executive education to create engaging and stimulating exampling of successful strategies; both in purpose and execution. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this book.” (Dr. Tom Clarke, President of New Business Ventures, Nike, Inc.)

“Cynthia Montgomery’s The Strategist debunks the Myth of the Super-Manager, capable of overcoming any and all competitive forces. Instead, Montgomery prescribes a clear roadmap to develop successful, customized strategies for organizations and the people who lead them.” (Craigie Zildjian, CEO, Avedis Zildjian Company)

“In this refreshing book, Montgomery brings out the Strategist in each of us. Wherever you are in the world, as a student, teacher or practitioner of strategy, you will find this book a joyful companion as you reinvent yourself and the world around you.” (Ashok Vasudevan, Founder and CEO of Tasty Bite)

“Montgomery’s approach to demystifying strategy is revolutionary. This book will make you sit up and take actions that will have a lasting and positive effect on your company. If you are ready for a life changing journey, read on.” (Peter Henderson, Chairman, Indigo Telecomm)

“This is a personal call to action for leaders to continuously ask themselves why their organizations matter today and will matter tomorrow. In doing so, vitality can be triggered breathing new life into the day-to-day life of a company.” (Tucson Citizen)

“It takes a bold...writer to venture once more into this particular breach….Montgomery offers a clear summary of how to think about the overlap between strategy and execution. In terms of basic usefulness, [this book] outshines books several times its length.” (Financial Times)

About the Author

CYNTHIA A. MONTGOMERY is the Timken Professor of Business Administration and immediate former head of the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School, where she’s taught for twenty years. For the past six years, she has led the strategy track in the school’s highly regarded executive program for owner-managers, attended by business leaders of midsized companies from around the globe. She has received the Greenhill Award for her outstanding contributions to the Harvard Business School’s core MBA strategy course. Montgomery is a top-selling Harvard Business Review author, and her work has appeared in the Financial Times, American Economic Review, Rand Journal of Economics, Strategic Management Journal, Management Science, and others. She has served on the boards of directors of two Fortune 500 companies and a number of mutual funds managed by BlackRock, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780062071019
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062071019
  • ASIN: 0062071017
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #297,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"The Strategist" is an outstanding book that simplifies strategy to its essence and provides a simple yet powerful framework. Highly recommended. Detailed thoughts below:

-I first came across Professor Cynthia Montgomery's work in 2005 when I read "Competing on Resources", an influential Harvard Business Review article that married internally focused resource-based view of a firm with Michael Porter's Five-Forces externally focused framework.

-More recently, I heard more about her work from a friend who recently graduated from Harvard's Enterpreneur, Owner, President (EOP) program.

-The best thing about the book is that it distills strategy into a framework that is simple to understand but very rigorous nevertheless. According to the book, a good strategy entails the following:

1. DRIVEN FROM THE VERY TOP, and cannot be left to strategic planning departments or consultants. It is the fundamental job of the CEO to develop and implement strategy. Note the focus on implementation: Without effective implementation, strategy is nothing. As she says: "Many people believe that a strategist's primary job is thinking. It isn't. The number-one job is putting together an agenda and putting in place the organization to carry it out."

2. A COMPELLING PURPOSE, which tells you where a company will play, how it will play, and what it will accomplish. Without this, employees, customers, and investors alike remain confused about a company's mission, and work off of assumptions. As she asks, "If your company disappeared today, would the world be different tomorrow?" This is illustrated with a variety of examples from companies such as Four Seasons, Nike, and Google.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought the audio version of this (from iTunes) after seeing an article Montgomery wrote in Inc magazine. I was expecting an insightful look of how to be a master strategist. Instead, what I got was essentially case studies of 3 businesses (Masco, Ikea, and Gucci). There were some valuable tips mixed in and the book is well written and skillfully presented, but most of the insights are the kind one would get in most business books (focus on value, make decisions based on data); good stuff and reminders and maybe there isn't much more to say. I was just expecting more so was disappointed. If you're new to business management type books, I think you'll be happy with it.

After finishing this, I was still interested to know more about strategy, and am happy to pass on I found an excellent book in Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. The author can be slightly arrogant at times, but when he points out the generalized popular misunderstandings around strategy, it kind of makes sense.
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Format: Hardcover
Most of what I know (or at least think I know) about strategy I learned from only a few people: Sun Tzu, Peter Drucker, Michael Porter, Lawrence Hrebiniak, Henry Mintzberg, and Walter Kiechel. Almost immediately, Cynthia Montgomery informs her reader that she offers a "revisionist view of strategy," based on her experiences while teaching for five years in what she identifies as Harvard's Entrepreneur, Owner, President (EOP) program. (That isn't its real name but you can easily find out, if interested, by contacting cynthiamontgomerydotcom.) One of the objectives of this program is to prepare participants to "become a strategist "whose time at the helm could have a profound effect on the fortunes of [their] organization." By the time I finished reading the book, I had learned at least as much about strategy from Montgomery as I had from anyone else.

If I understand Montgomery's concept of a strategist (and I may not), it suggests - at least to me -- some similarity with a maritime pilot who comes aboard what is usually a huge ship and guides it safely to open water. Consider this brief excerpt: "The strategist is the one who must shepherd this ongoing process [of refining while implementing plan of action], who must stand watch, identify and weigh, decide and move, time and time again. The strategist is the one who must decline certain opportunities and pursue others...it is the strategist who bears the responsibility for setting a firm's course and making the choices day after day that continuously refine that course. Whereas the maritime pilot leaves the ship after guiding it for a time, the strategist remains on course. "That is why strategy and leadership must be reunited at the highest level of an organization.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Cynthia has a writing style that is very interesting, she presents her main concepts using real world stories with enough details for the reader to get involved and understand the point. What she addresses is closer to what a strategist like Bruce Henderson would discuss than Michael Porter. She is distilling the essence of being a strategist. Other authors like Michael Porter is closer to Joel Dean ( a microeconomist) , for he is more like a specialized theoretical microeconomics professor that detailed the ideas/concepts related to the behavior of firms in the economic arena.
Her book will help inspire professionals, business leaders to sharpen his/her ideas to develop his own strategies for their companies. For leaders trying to find their way out of a complex situation, it will bring a lot of value and clarity of thought.
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