Stragility: A book review by Bob Morris

StragilityStragility: Excelling at Strategic Changes
Ellen Auster and Lisa Hillenbrand
University of Toronto Press (March 2016)

How to thrive in a global marketplace that seems to become more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous each day

Ellen Auster and Lisa Hillenbrand selected an excellent quotation from the work of Peter Drucker as a headnote to Chapter One:

“Change is the norm. To be sure, it is painful and risky, and above all it requires a great deal of very hard work. But unless it is seen as the task of the organization to lead change, the organization – whether business, university, hospital and so on – will not survive. In a period of rapid structural change, the only ones who survive are the Change Leaders.” From Management Challenges in the 21st Century (2001)

Key business insights are best anchored in human experience and that is especially true of Ellen Auster and Lisa Hillenbrand’s brilliant use of micro-case studies that focus on these diverse subjects:

o Roger Federer: Shifting Both Strategies and Execution to Win (Pages 5-6)
o Macy’s: Redefining Strategy Leads to Record Growth (16-17)
o Free the Children: Continuous Transformations to Achieve Purpose and Mission (30-32)
o KFC: Winning Hearts and Minds (42-43)
o Colgate University: Turning Protest into Passion for Joint Action (51-53)
o Samsø: Embracing Change to Create a Renewable Energy Community (62-63)
o Starbucks: Re-inspiring One Barrista at a Time (89-92)
o Dematic: Delivers for Its Customers (100-102)
o Kaiser Permanente: Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement (118-119)
o U.S. Navy: Apply Stragility to [begin italics] Your [end italics] Ship (127-129)

Yes, this certainly a diverse range of subjects, one that supports Auster and Hillenbrand’s contention that stragility can help individuals as well as organizations “to thrive amidst relentless turbulence and uncertainty. Achieving Stragility is the key to competitive advantage that lasts. Whether we’re making major change in strategic direction or course-correcting a strategy already in the world, we need Stragility to harness the energy and ideas of our people to accomplish key goals today. And we need to build the necessary change capabilities to enable us to continually rally to meet the next change on the horizon.”

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

o Stragility Skills (Pages 8-10)
o Redefining Strategy to Win (13-20)
o Watch Our Wings (20-24)
o Shift Strategies and Tactics (26-30)
o Developing Political Strategy 44-50)
o Cultivate “Better Together” Teams and Solutions (58-62)
o Global Port Invasion: From Rough Waters to Smooth Sailing (73-75)
o Go Slow to Go Fast 80-86)
o Stay Close to the Action (86-89)
o Change Less and Achieve More (102-106)
o Run Water Through the Pipes (106-108)
o Be the Change (110-116)
o Learn to Learn (116-118)
o Winning with Stragility: A New, Powerful Source of Competitive Advantage (129-130)

I commend Auster and Hillenbrand on their creative use of various reader-friendly devices such as “At a Glance” and “Recap” sections that, respectively, tee up and review key points. They will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of later whatever material is most important to the reader. I also strongly recommend checking out the five “Stragility Diagnostic Tools” that, if taken seriously, can reveal valuable information.

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that Ellen Auster and Lisa Hillenbrand provide. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of their book. If your organization needs a competitive advantage or needs to strengthen the one it has, Stragility is “must reading.”

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