Being Strategic: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: July 8th, 2011 by bobmorris

Being Strategic: Plan for Success; Out-think Your Competitors; Stay Ahead of Change
Erika Andersen
St. Martins Press (2009)

How to make decisions that drive success

For organizations as well as for individuals, strategies resemble “hammers” and tactics resemble “nails” in that the former are needed to drive the latter. To extend the use of metaphors, it is also important to have the right hammer and the right nail, locate the nail properly, and then hit it with sufficient force. If I understand what Erika Andersen is explaining in this book, this is what “being strategic” is all about when making decisions that concern one’s career and personal life. As Yogi Berra is alleged to have said, “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” Therefore, it is imperative to envision a desired future because having that clearly in mind will guide and inform the decisions that are made, including non-decisions. (I agree with Michael Porter: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”) In this volume, Andersen immediately establishes a personal rapport with her reader with effective use of direct address and sustains it as she responds to questions such as these, with the prefix How to:

•  Formulate a desired future?
•  Define the challenge(s)?
•  Identify the barriers?
•  Craft appropriate strategies?
•  Select appropriate tactics?
•  Execute effectively and efficiently?
•  Measure progress?
•  Recognize and then make necessary course corrections?
•  Involve others to obtain their support and assistance?

These are questions that must be addressed by individuals who are dissatisfied with the progress of their career and/or the quality of their personal lives. They are the same questions that must be addressed by those involved in project teams.

Readers will appreciate that throughout her narrative, Andersen includes self-directed (“Try It Out”) exercises that can be completed within the book. This is a format I have always favored in combination with a reader’s highlighting of key points. (I do not understand why more authors do not use it.) Other reader-friendly devices include strategic use of bold face, checklists, summaries of key points, graphics (i.e. Figures), and an “In Real Life” section that concludes each chapter that asks the reader to correlate material in the book with specific circumstances in her or his own life. Obviously, these are correlations only the reader can make and, as Andersen surely intended, actively involve the reader in a journey of discovery as well as well as a process to achieve ultimate success, however defined.

Readers who have supervisory responsibilities are urged to check out Andersen’s previously published book, How to Grow Great Employees: Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers. (It is now available in a paperbound edition with a new Preface.) Given the fact that all organizations need effective leadership and management at all levels and in all areas, I think both of her books are essential to gaining an understanding of (a) how to become a fully-developed person at work and in one’s personal life and (b) how to help others to do so, also.


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