- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Harvard Business Press; 6.1.2009 edition (July 6, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 142217770X
- ISBN-13: 978-1422177709
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #619,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto Hardcover – July 6, 2009
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...a smart book about creating a workable sustainability plan for your organization. --Associations Now, June 2009
...useful and refreshingly nondoctrinaire book...tells vivid and interlocked stories that stick in the brain. --Stanford Social Innovation Review, Summer 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
The author's frustration at not being able to persuade New Orleans' leaders of the risks of a hurricane inspired this book. I appreciate the passion. However, I came away confused, feeling that perhaps the passion was driving his writing faster than he could evaluate what actually reached the page; that perhaps there were more thoughts behind the words than were actually communicated by the ink on the paper.
p7: "Innovate differently, and win, or continue to innovate narrowly, and lose." Has Werbach not read The Innovator's Dilemma? "Innovating differently" is an enormous challenge to established companies and isn't going to be solved by exhortation.
p. 20: "Nature obsesses over protecting its young." No, only for some vertebrates. Not for oysters, or pine trees, or any of the bazillion R-strategist species, which have better survival profiles in unstable environments than the K-strategists that invest heavily in gestation and nuturing babies.
p. 20: "Integrate metrics. Nature brings the right information to the right place at the right time. When a tree needs water, the leaves curl." Huh? This is the place where I began to wonder whether there was some major additional thinking behind the words because the words didn't make sense to me. How on earth are curling leaves metrics information to the tree? Curling leaves are a survival "behavior," and perhaps metrics to someone with a watering can. But I don't water trees...
(There's actually a whole lot more on this particular page that leaves me scratching my head, pondering how the author's view of nature-as-business-model is different from mine. Population explosions in many species, followed by famine-driven die-offs, are pretty common in the nature I know.)
The story about Circuit City's failure on p. 26: "The company's human resource strategy failed." Did the strategy fail, or did they fail to follow the strategy? Maybe it's a nit, but this is a book about strategy.
Strategy #7: "Only the truly transparent will survive." OK. I'll allow that as a premise. However, the example provided is how the totally opaque functioning of AIG and its mortgage-backed securities drove the collapse of the company. I don't see that this example proves the point.
Enough already. I think this book makes an important contribution, and I wish I didn't have to work so hard to figure it out. Being sustainable is hard enough.
If you are a business executive with a disposition to sustainability, this book will speak to you and is a must read. He does a pretty good job comparing his perspective to other thinking, such as that of Jim Collins (Built to Last, Good to Great, How the Mighty Fall).
But he opens with an anecdote of how he couldn't reach the leadership in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina and he feels professional regret about not being able to frame his argument in a way it would be received.
I think that's noble and he has tried very hard to be persuasive--speaking in the language of the receiver--in this book, but he almost overly does so, pulling every business and societal buzzword (down to transparency) as conditions to be successful in meeting business and sustainability goals. Heck, actually, sustainability itself is a buzzword these days.
So, what comes out is a well-thought thesis for action, and, despite my headline, a potential roadmap. But, it's potential in that it is theoritical. I think he knows this--hence, the "Manifesto," in the subtitle. "Manifesto" worked for Jerry McGuire, though, and this author evokes similar passion.
Temper your expectations, and I think you'll be impressed with the book and retain--even apply--many of the ideas. Look to this at the ultimate prescription for sustainability in business, and you'll be disappointed.
* Diversify across generations
* Adapt to the changing environment
* Celebrate transparency
* Plan and execute systematically, not compartmentally.
* Integrate metrics
* Improve with each cycle
* Right-size regularly, rather than downsize occasionally
* Foster longevity, not immediate gratification
* waste nothing
Unfortunately his organization could use some work. His best definition of sustainability actually comes in the conclusion of the book! (Sustainability means meeting your needs now, while not compromising your ability to meet your needs in the future). There are also a few acronyms he invents that he doesn't define until after they've been used.
The most glaring omission in the book is that while he has loads of examples and ideas, he focuses almost exclusive on the manufacturing sector of the economy, and ignores the service sector. He does mention that his ideas can be applied to the service sector too, but it would be nice to see him give more than just lip service to that notion.
Overall I don't want to dwell on the negatives too much, because there really are some great ideas in this book, and I'm convinced that enterprises which follow his roadmap will certainly be better off in the long term, as will our society as a whole. He celebrates transparency and encourages enterprises to listen to their outside critics as well as work with their partners to mutual benefit. I would certainly recommend this to anyone who is thinking about the future of their enterprise and is ready to think long term instead of just to the next quarterly earnings report.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book will be usuful for such way of thinking.
Several reviews mention this is not a roadmap or organized guide to sustainabilty & they're...Read more