Elevate: A book review by Bob Morris

ElevateElevate: The Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking
Rich Horwath
Wiley (2014)

How and why to elevate your business thinking to gain more and better perspectives…and help others to do so

In a previously published book, Deep Dive: The Proven Method for Building Strategy, Focusing Your Resources, and Taking Smart Action, Rich Horwath observes that 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 explaining 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. All this is directly relevant to his latest book and, especially, to his skill use of a helicopter metaphor discussing three disciplines that must be mastered so that business leaders can elevate the scope and clarity of their thinking about strategy.

Horwath defines strategy as “the intelligent allocation of limited resources through a unique system of activities to outperform competition in serving customers. Resources include time, talent, and capital…The idea of uniqueness — performing different activities or performing similar activities differently than the competition — is at the core of strategy.” I view strategies as “hammers” that drive tactics (“nails”) and agree with Michael Porter: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

With regard to the helicopter metaphor, Horwath recalls a brief flight with his instructor in a Hughes 269C after completing not one but two thorough pre-flight checklists of a total of 124 different items. Only through this experience did he fully understand and appreciate the skills needed to fly a helicopter. “And so it is with leading a business. A truly strategic leader possesses the mastery to manage multiple initiatives simultaneously, monitor the internal conditions of the business (e.g., people processes, culture, etc.), assess the external conditions (e.g., market trends, customer needs, competitive landscape, etc.), and design a strategic action plan to achieve the goals and objectives. In both cases, elevation is required.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Horwath’s coverage.

o Top 10 Strategy Challenges (Pages 5-11)
o GOST Framework (12-14)
o The Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking (19-20)
o Patterns in Strategy (26-32)
o Three Phase Business Model (40-52)
o Strategy and Innovation (59-66)
o Competitive Advantage: Eight Key Determinations (84-88)
o Competitive Intelligence (88-91)
o Using Time Strategically (106-109)
o Influencing Strategy Commitment (112-115)
o Strategic Behavior (119-122)
o Three Practice Principles to Guide Instruction (126-129)
o The Power of Story[telling], and, Creating a Strategy Story (138-144)
o When to Change Strategy (147-149)

I commend Horwath on his skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include Figures (e.g. 1.6, Value Chain,” and “Areas of Time Investment Gauge,” Pages 46 and 111) and Tables (e.g. 1.1, “Strategy Challenges” and 2.2, Competitive Advantage Profile,” Pages 6 and 87) as well as a “1,000-Foot View” section with which he concludes each chapter. These devices can facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the wealth of information, insights, and counsel that Rich Horwath provides. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of his latest book. Also, I wish to conclude with three brief points with which he presumably agrees. First, leaders’ business thinking must be elevated before attempts are made to elevate an organizations productivity, efficiency, and thereby its profitability. Also, advanced strategic thinking must be developed at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. Finally, meanwhile, everyone involved should keep in mind an observation made by Peter Drucker in a Harvard Business Review article more then twenty years ago: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

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1 Comment

  1. David Schwartz on May 14, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Bob, thank you for sharing an accurate book review. Based on your review, I bought the book (Kindle Edition).

    I could not put it down. One of the best business books written in the last few years…

    Mr. Rich Horwarth’s “Elevate” book should be required reading at all business schools and at the C-suite. I plan to buy copies for all my strategic e-marketing clients.

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