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Certain to Win Paperback – 24 Jun 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: Xlibris (24 Jun 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1413453767
  • ISBN-13: 978-1413453768
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.1 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 818,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Chet Richards was a close associate of the late US Air Force Colonel John Boyd beginning in the mid-1970s. He has consulted with a number of aerospace and professional services companies and has lectured at the Air War College and the Army's Command and General Staff College. He is the author of A Swift, Elusive Sword and other works on applications of Boyd's strategy. Chet holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Mississippi and maintains a business and communications strategy practice with Tarkenton & Addams, Inc., a public relations firm in Atlanta, Georgia.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Magnus Gustafsson on 5 Jan 2011
Format: Paperback
This is the best strategy book I have ever read. In Richards' way of seeing it strategy is not a boring desktop exercise(SWOT - Stupid Waste Of Time). Strategy becomes lively. By seeing strategy as intentional movement, not just setting a direction, strategy becomes part of operations and not something distant in the boardroom.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 32 reviews
50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Content lacks focus and organization 31 July 2008
By Lichung Liu - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I write reviews rarely, and only on occasion when I feel strongly enough about something and want to make sure others are aware of it. Despite the high ratings and raving reviews, this book disappoints. I bought this book because I want to learn how to apply OODA model to high stress situations where decision must be made. This is frequently the case in the business world. I expected the author to at least dive into each of the O-O-D-A step, draw its application in business terms, and provide case studies on when OODA was applies correctly and incorrectly. Unfortunately, that is not how the book is structured.

The book lacks organization, or word differently, it does not "start with the end in mind". Instead of start the book with OODA, the book dives straight into historical events, most of which are military based. Of the time when business organization are mentioned (e.g, Southwest, Dell), the author never draw the parallel or explain how the strategic concept applies. If this is a book about business, then at least explain how Southwest or Dell adopted the strategy correctly, or how Chrysler or Enron did otherwise. As of page 100, there isn't a single business case study.

The first 100 pages of the book, out of 187 pages, is used to convince you the validity of Boyd's principles, with the first paragraph on page 100 stating "In the previous chapters, I tried to convince you that the physical characteristics, such as....... do not guarantee victory in any highly competitive situation...". Unfortunately, I do not need to be convinced. This is not a common book shelved in bookstores. If the audience has to actively seek out of the book, then they have already been convinced the validity of the OODA loop, and is seeking for real world application. This means more than 50% of the book could have been better used.

Another distracting characteristic of the book is the author's writing style. The content flows more like a dictation as if someone recorded a free flow lecture and typed it up. The writing style is verbose. Paragraphs do not start or end with a point and often goes off on a tangent, and does a poor job, if at all, tie back to the original thought. The author often seems to be talking to himself. An example:

"Chapter III described four qualities, with roots down through history, that help an organization run at fast OODA tempo. The first of these is unity, cohesion, oneness, or, as I shall use in the rest of this book, mutual trust between the members of the organization. The German word Einheit conveys all these meanings, and I'll use it occasionally as well...".

The problem is, if the goal is to convey the importance of "mutual trust", then I already got it. I do not need to know it's also known as unity, cohesion or oneness. It's also unclear on why the German word "Einheit" is important enough to be introduced only to be used "occasionally" when it's already been explained as "mutual trust" - does English not have an equivalent word or something close enough that we much introduce a foreign word? This writing style is consistent through out the book, making it difficult to identify the key points and stay on track.

To be objective, different people respond to different writing style. My intent of writing this review is to provide some warning to those with similar learning approach. The raving reviews and high praises did not reflect this aspect of the book.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Getting inside your competitor's decision cycle 11 Aug 2004
By Lane Desborough - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Certain to Win" is an interpretation of how to apply John Boyd's warfighting principles to business, written by someone who worked with Boyd. If you are a member of a group or team in competition for something, this book is a must-read.

I learned of John Boyd after his death in 1997. At that time all I knew was that as a fighter pilot, Boyd had developed an Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) theory to explain how some pilots and aircraft were more successful than others. I also learned that very little of Boyd's work was captured in written form - he preferred to deliver his message via marathon briefings.

When Robert Coram's biography "Boyd, the Fighter Pilot who Changed the Art of War" was published in 2002, I immediately snapped it up. Little did I know this would set me on a path which has helped me immeasurably as I grapple with life in corporate America.

Boyd is the modern day analog of Percy Scott and William Sims, two men who revolutionized gunfire at sea in the early part of the twentieth century. Many parallels exist in the methods these three men used to effect change in large bureaucracies - insights which are immediately applicable today in large corporations which struggle with innovation and growth amid the presence of lithe, agile, often unforeseen threats to their very existence.

In Coram's biography of Boyd, he spends a great deal of time describing Boyd's acolytes: Chet Richards, Raymond Leopold, Chuck Spinney, Jim Burton, and Pierre Sprey. These men worked with Boyd. They inspired and drew inspiration from him. Many continue to evangelize and expand on Boyd's ideas. One of the most prolific of Boyd's acolytes is Chet Richards. Chet has extended and reinterpreted Boyd's work in a business rather than military setting. His most recent book, "Certain to Win", demonstrates how organizations can achieve their goals through application of Boyd's concepts.

Coram's book and Richards' book are two important signposts on a journey of exploration which reveals connections amongst contemporary and historical thought leaders as diverse as Clayton Christensen, Sun Tsu, Brian Goodwin, Werner Heisenberg, Eli Goldratt, Mohan Sawhney, Niccolo Machiavelli, Michael Porter, Jaclyn Kostner, Gary Klein, Alistair Cockburn, John Kotter, and Tom Peters. Coram sets the stage, and Richards delivers the prescription for success in achieving fast OODA loops in organizations. "Certain to Win" shows how time can be exploited as a weapon for competitive advantage. Richards debunks the myth that "size matters" when it comes to modern competition. He makes it clear that business strategy is not a "super plan" to be plotted our far in the future and then executed with unfaltering mechanical precision. He shows that bureaucracies are inflexible and rigid at the top, while organisms are agile and adaptive.

Central to the value of "Certain to Win" is a detailed description of how to institute Boyd's organizational climate, a climate exhibited in elite organizations such as the US Marine Corps, Southwest Airlines, and Toyota. Consider the following:

1) Focus and direction

2) Mission responsibilities

3) Intuitive competence

4) Mutual trust

Like most of Boyd's concepts - OODA loops, energy maneuverability theory, destruction and creation - the simplicity of these four concepts belies the complexity and profound insight in creating them and the challenges in instituting them. Easily shrugged off as platitudes, they cry out for the detailed insight on how to apply them within a complex organization. With these four elements in place, organizations are able to operate at higher tempo than their competitors in the face of a rapidly changing set of environmental and competitive circumstances.

If you can get inside your competitor's OODA loop - whether you're a fighter pilot, a member of a sports team, or a business person - you will win every time. The key factors which enable this higher organizational tempo are focus and direction, mission responsibilities, intuitive competence, and mutual trust.

Boyd will one day be remembered as a man who not only changed the art of war, but through extension of his acolytes such as Chet Richards, the art of business and even the art of team sports. If you haven't read Coram's book, do so. Next, pick up "Certain to Win", which describes the steps individuals and organizations can take to move closer to their goal.

Basically, "Certain to Win" demonstrates how Boyd's principles can be applied wherever humans band together to improve their capacity for independent action. Highly recommended.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
This book is not just a read, it's a tool. 11 Dec 2004
By Wiley B. Howard Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Certain to Win" is a book about "making things happen". It breaks through the old concepts of long meetings and over analysis of a situation by "cutting to the chase" and taking action by intelligently using time and knowledge gained from current and past experiences in a rapid manner. Dr Richards illustrates this by using historical examples where the entity that took action was determined the winner, and that the winner was often a force less likely to win.

Many people experienced with managing/leading others will be able to relate to examples in their lives where people provide a lot of great ideas, but fail to act on them for one reason or another. This book helps people break through that challenge by providing actionable ideas/concepts that have been time tested via both military and commercial applications. Additionally, this book is designed to be employed by the reader by virtue of its direct and succinct approach to taking positive action in chaotic situations. The end of his book follows up with a number of references that can be sought for further study.

Key issues that challenge leaders are addressed in this book such as:

Creating/establishing a Vision (Concepts for team building)

Creating a winning climate in a highly competitive environment

How to survive and thrive in a Chaotic environment on your own terms

Provides leaders managerial and leadership concepts that are not mainstream

The strength of this book lies in its concepts of making rapid decisions and taking action. These very concepts are used by the military in crisis action planning, conducting combat operations, leading and managing U.S. Marines.

Operation managers can use this book to develop strategies that can assimilate cultural, educational and life experiences of its employees. Human resources managers can use this as a guide to develop templates to better identify who they want to hire and where they can best support the organization. Business Intelligence personnel can use the enclosed information, particularly the Boyd Cycle, to better support unit operations. Competitive Intelligence personnel can template out competitors utilizing the Dr Richards' concepts to properly assess competitors.

There something for everyone in this book whether you are military or civilian. This book is not just a read, it's a tool.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Great Stuff - Boyd on Business 12 Feb 2007
By Steve Dietrich - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sadly it is only after his death that we have come to have widespread appreciation of Boyd's great intellect. This book is another great step in finding broader application of some of what Boyd taught.Chet Richards has done a great job of bringing Boyd's message to the business world.

Some have questioned whether a view of decision making in combat was applicable to business. The answer is yes, sometimes and perhaps more often than you think. Boyd is probably even more applicable to political campaigns.

Were I still teaching MBA students, some of the material from the book would be in the classroom, replacing more traditional materials.

I would read Boyd first as a foundation for this book.

Highly recommended.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business 12 Sep 2004
By Kevin Francis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Possibly, the best book I have read on strategy, both in the arena of warfare and business (and I've read a few!). Chet Richards has done a great job of taking John Boyd's work and applying it to the arena of business. He uses a number of case studies (e.g. Toyota and SouthWest Airlines) to illustrate the concepts.

As an example of the insights I gleaned from the book, it makes it very clear why "me too" strategies rarely produce good results.

Anyway, a great book,only 187 pages (including notes etc) so it's easy to read and there's no "filler". Like all classics, simple and to the point but incredibly profound. Buy it! You'll be glad you did!
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