Think to Win: A book review by Bob Morris

Think to WinThink to Win: Unleashing the Power of Strategic Thinking
Paul Butler, John Manfredi, and Peter Klein
McGraw-Hill (2015)

The power of a new approach to results-driven, high-impact strategic thinking

Paul Butler, John Manfredi, and Peter Klein introduce and thoroughly explain a new approach to thinking simply, yet strategically: “That’s TTW, Think to Win.” I hasten to add that how “winning” is defined should be determined by the individuals and organizations that seek to achieve it. The key term is “strategic.” I agree with Butler, Manfredi, and Klein that in the healthiest organizations, the most successful organizations, there is effective strategic thinking at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise.

I agree with them: “Many companies have generated remarkable successes by creating traditions of strategic thinking. By instilling this capability throughout the organizations, companies such as Keurig, Jamba Juice, Procter & Gamble, Gillette, and New Balance have enjoyed years of dynamic growth. Butler, Manfredi, and Klein identify five principles that can serve as a “compass” to guide and inform strategic thinking:

o Challenge assumptions: Take no one and nothing for granted.
o Scope the issue: Determine its nature and extent.
o Rely on facts and data: Separate empirical evidence from “common knowledge.”
o Focus on the vital few: Focus on the 10% that has the greatest impact on the 90%.
o Connect the dots: Make certain that they are the right dots and connected in the right pattern.

I commend the co-authors on their brilliant use of various reader-friendly devices, notably dozens of “Try This” application exercises strategically located throughout their lively and eloquent narrative. Also, dozens of mini-commentaries (in gray boxes) that highlight key insights, bullet-point checklists, and end-of-chapter Summaries and Exercises that review key points and suggest possible application of them to the reader’s own situation. These devices help to facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

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

o Taking the Long, Strategic View (Pages 10-13)
o Focus on the Vital Few (23-25)
o Connect the Dots (26-31)
o Principles + Process (40-42)
o Umbrella Statements (42-54)
o Facing a Critical Juncture (70-74)
o Defining characteristics of a great vision: Simple, Concise, Clear, and Compelling (84-87)
o Getting the Right Balance — Goals Flow from Vision and Governing Statements (90-93)
o Aha Moments and Insights Inspire Strategies (102-107)
o Zeroing in on the Right Choices (107-112)
o Review the Choices (123-126)
o Key Messages Frame Everything (140-144)
o Making Visions Come Alive (166-167)
o HR Helps to Sustain Winning (175-178)
o Appendix A: Organizational Alignment Survey (189-195)
o Appendix B: Think to in Situation Assessment Diagnostic: Situation Assessment Tool for Consumer/Customer Marketing (198-210)

For business leaders who wish to introduce or strengthen strategic thinking throughout their organization, Paul Butler, John Manfredi, and Peter Klein provide an abundance of information, insights, and counsel. Some of the most valuable material is in two appendices: an “Organizational Alignment Survey” and then a “Think to Win Situation Assessment Diagnostic: Situation Assessment Tool for Consumer/Customer Marketing.” Be sure to read and then re-read the nine chapters and Epilogue first.

Although the mini-case studies focus on larger organizations such as Gillette, LEGO, and Duracell, I believe that almost all of the material (with only minor modification) can also be of substantial value to almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. That said, the value of the Think to Win – or any other approach, for that matter — will depend entirely on the willingness and ability of those involved to master core concepts and requisite tools, then apply then effectively to the given need, challenge, or opportunity. I am convinced that the fastest way, the easiest way, the least expensive way, to achieve a strategic objective is to pursue it the right way.

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