Deep Dive: A book review by Bob Morris

Deep Dive: The Proven Method for Building Strategy, Focusing Your Resources, and Taking Smart Action
Rich Horwath
Greenleaf Book Group Press (2009)

Attitude and preparation determine altitude…and also depth

There are business situations in which the goal is to ascend (e.g. to reach a higher level of productivity, efficiency, profitability) and other situations in which the goal is to descend (e.g. to drill down past symptoms to the root causes of a problem) and successfully achieving either goal depends almost entirely on one’s attitude. Long ago, Henry Ford observed, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” Attitude is even more decisive when there are severe challenges to overcome. Years later, Jack Dempsey had this in mind when suggesting that “champions get up when they can’t.”

I mention all this because, in Deep Dive, Rich Horvath makes brilliant use of extended metaphors for both ascension and descent. He provides a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective program by which to prepare to achieve success at either great heights or great depths. More specifically, he explains

•  The four types of strategic thinkers
•  The strategic thinking assessment
•  The three disciplines of strategic thinking

Note: It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of an appropriate strategy. I presume to suggest that you think of a strategy as a “hammer” that drives “nails,” or tactics. It guide and informs initiatives to achieve the given goal or objective.  Horwath also explains

• The most common obstacles to strategic thinking and how to avoid or overcome them
•  Why competitive advantage is strategy’s “Holy Grail”
•  How and why value discipline “spells success”

All this and more is covered in the first two chapters. Then in Chapters 3-5, he introduces and explains three disciplines: #1: Acumen (the deep dive for insight), #2: Allocation (using tangible, intangible, and human resources wisely), and #3: Action (there must be no gap between knowing and doing). The last three chapters focus on teamwork (collaboration determined by mission, vision, and values), “Deep Dive Dangers” (e.g. “anchors” such as pre-judgments or prejudices, erroneous assumptions, false premises), and “The Confidence to Dive” based on appropriate strategy design and coordinated application of the three disciplines). Credit Horwath with skillful use of several reader-friendly devices through his narrative, notably “Drive Master Practice” and “Pearls of Insight” sections that serve two separate but related functions: they suggest action steps and highlight key points.

I also appreciate the insertion of boxed comments and insights relevant to the given context. For example, on Page 30 in Chapter 2: “Johnny Cash and the Mini Cooper have both been remarkably successful because they were different from their competition in ways their core customers valued.” Do not be misled by this book’s title. It is not about diving in deep water. Rather, it is about what can be learned from that activity while “building business strategy, focusing your resources, and taking smart action” to achieve business objectives.

I conclude with two of my favorite quotations. Both are compellingly relevant to the material that Rich Horwath shares in this book. First, from Michael Porter: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” Now the second from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”  Know where not to pursue business objectives before formulating a strategy and then, know what not to do when executing that strategy.


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