Your Strategy Needs a Strategy: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: June 14th, 2015 by bobmorris

Your Strategy NeedsYour Strategy Needs a Strategy: How to Choose and Execute the Right Approach
Martin Reeves, Knut Haanaes, and Janmejava Sinha
Harvard Business Review Press (2015)

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
— Michael Porter

Porter’s comment offers a valuable reminder, as does this one from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” The same is true of all other major business initiatives: to paraphrase an ancient proverb, “old wine in new bottles is still old wine.” During an interview of Jon Katzenbach years ago, he confided that the most difficult challenge to change agents is to think differently about change. In another interview, Tom Kelley stressed the importance of thinking innovatively about innovation.

This is probably what Martin Reeves, Knut Haanes, and Janmejava Sinha had in mind when observing that a leader “has a number of critical roles when matching strategic approaches to environments, keeping the resulting strategy collage dynamic, and catalyzing the execution of those approaches. From the CEOs we interviewed for this book, we heard that the toughest and most valuable challenge of all is managing the dynamic complexity inherent in large companies that requires multiple simultaneous or successive approaches to strategy.”

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of this book’s coverage:

o Five Strategy Environments (Pages 6-7)
o Five Strategy Archetypes (7-14)

o Mars, Inc.: Winning Classically (25-27)
o The Classical Approach to Strategy: Core Idea (27-30)
o When to Apply a Classical Approach (32-33)

o Positioning Play at Huawei (38-39)
o Planning and Challenge at Mahindra (41-44)
o Planning with Discipline at Mylan (44-45)

o The Classical Approach in Practice: Implementation (47-54)

o The Adaptive Approach to Strategy: The Core Idea (60-63)
o Managing a Portfolio of Experiments (72-76)

o The Adaptive Approach to Strategy: Implementation (76-85)

o The Visionary Approach to Strategy: The Core Idea (89-93)
o The Visionary Approach to Strategy: Strategizing (97-101)
o The Visionary Approach in Practice: Implementation (104-110)

o The Shaping Approach to Strategy: Core Idea, and, When to Apply a Shaping Approach (115-123)

o The Renewal Approach to Strategy: Core Idea (143-148)
o The Renewal Approach in Practice: Strategizing (150-158)
o The Renewal Approach in Practice: Implementation (159-164)

o Ambidexterity: Core Idea (175-178)
o Four Approaches to Ambidexterity: Which Fits Your Canvas? (178-184)

o Key Leadership Roles in a Complex and Dynamic World (197-199)
o Animating the Collage: The Eight Roles of Leaders (199-209)

Obviously, no brief commentary can do full justice to the wealth of information, insights, and counsel that Martin Reeves, Knut Haanes, and Janmejava Sinha provide in this volume. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of the material, most of which (with appropriate modification) can be of incalculable value to leaders in almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be.

Strategies can be viewed as “hammers” that drive tactics or “nails.” In today’s global marketplace within which change occurs faster and in greater number than at any prior time that I recall, business leaders need more than a toolkit. They need a giant hardware store and the skills that tools require. Strategies must help organizations to achieve their objectives. First, however, business leaders must identify those objectives with care. When doing so, I presume to suggest that that they keep in mind the aforementioned observation by Peter Drucker : “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

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