The Strategy Book: A book review by Bob Morris

The Strategy Book
Max Mckeown
FT Press (2012)

“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory evolved.” Sun Tzu

Among Max Mckeown’s “Final words” (Page 224) are these: “The principles in this book are based on the advice of the greatest strategic thinkers throughout the centuries and cutting-edge wisdom from the world’s leader strategy researchers. Everything has been selected with great care. Each model in the strategist’s tool kit is worth understanding and putting into practice.” I agree completely. In my opinion, this is one of the three best general sources for strategy, all of which every executive should own and frequently consult.

The other two? Michael Porter’s On Competition (Updated and Expanded Edition) and Henry Mintzberg’s Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour Through The Wilds of Strategic Management, one that Mckeown includes in his “Further reading” section.

Mckeown provides a wealth of information, insights, and counsel to help his reader achieve strategic objectives such as these, rigorously discussed in Parts 1 and 2:

o Using an appropriate strategy to shape the future to advantage
o Using the same strategy to complete the “shortest route between means and ends”
o Becoming a strategic thinker
o Obtaining broad-based buy-in for that strategy
o Being fully prepared to react effectively as well as anticipate correctly
o Taking prudent risks to “jump” gaps of uncertainty
o Develop strategy within a wide and deep context
o “Knowing where the grass [really] is greener”

In Parts 3-5, Mckeown explains how to achieve strategic objectives of comparable importance and then provides, in Part 6, “The Strategy Tool Kit.” In my opinion, the “Tool Kit” material (all by itself) is worth cost of the book. As he explains, “I have chosen a personalised selection of strategy tools. First, there are the most popular tools — those that are used most often in the workplace. Second, there are some of the most influential tools from the field of strategy and management. Third, there are tools that I have found valuable in my work with some of the most successful organisations in the world.”

For example:

o Porter’s 5 forces of competition (Pages 172-173)
o McKinsey’s 7-S framework (184-185)
o Ansoff’s power grid (188-189)
o Kim and Mauborgne’s blue ocean (192-193)
o Kaplan and Norton’s balanced scorecard (204-205)
o Hammer and Champy’s business process redesign (208-209
o Prahalad’s bottom of the pyramid (220-221)

Although these and other items in Part 6 are “snapshots” of immensely concepts and basic tools, they are remarkably informative. Mckeown also includes a brief “How to use” section with each.

The observation by Sun Tzu that serves as the title of this review correctly suggests the importance of formulating a strategy that becomes obvious only when executing (for better or worse) tactics that are guided and informed by it. In this book and in his equally brilliant book, Adaptability, Max Mckeown shares with those who read them everything he has learned about what works, what doesn’t, and why. More specifically, how to engage a team, create a strategy process, conduct a strategy meeting, understand (I mean “get-in-their-heads/hearts/guts” understand) the competition, combine and coordinate strategy and tactics, use strategy tools effectively, and lead the strategy to success.

 

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  1. Blogging About Business Update: Week of 10/1/12 on October 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm

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