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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, Eloquent, Comprehensive, and Practical
The most important business books are written in response to an especially important question and this book is no exception: “How to make strategy work?” Hrebiniak focuses his attention on the processes, decisions, and actions which are needed to execute an appropriate strategy effectively. It soon becomes obvious that Hrebiniak is a pragmatist. His...
Published on 10 Jan. 2006 by Robert Morris

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3.0 out of 5 stars Work in progress
This book was the primary text for our Strategy Implementation module for the UCD Smurfit Executive MBA course. It was universally reviled and even the lecturer admitted that he had issues with the book. However there was no better alternative.

The book organises itself around the top issues related to strategy implementation from a Wharton-Gartner and Wharton...
Published on 6 Jun. 2009 by Peter Pudaite


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, Eloquent, Comprehensive, and Practical, 10 Jan. 2006
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
The most important business books are written in response to an especially important question and this book is no exception: “How to make strategy work?” Hrebiniak focuses his attention on the processes, decisions, and actions which are needed to execute an appropriate strategy effectively. It soon becomes obvious that Hrebiniak is a pragmatist. His observations and recommendations are based on an abundance of real-world data. Both he and his content are results-oriented. He is determined to help his reader to see the Big Picture but also to be ever-alert for significant details. A realist, Hrebiniak fully understands that strategy execution initiatives inevitably encounter all manner of barriers, challenges, etc. and so he correctly stresses the importance of managing change as a complicated, sometimes volatile process. Hrebiniak addresses many of the same issues which Bossidy and Charan do in Execution: The Discipline of Results. However, I think he explores them in much greater depth. Most important of all, at least to me, is the fact Hrebiniak’s book is mercifully free of esoteric theories and obese hypotheses. He devotes most of his attention to explaining what needs to be done, why it needs to be done, and how to do it effectively.
The material is carefully organized within ten chapters whose subjects range from “Strategy Execution Is the Key” to “Summary and Application: Making Mergers and Acquisitions Work,” followed by an Appendix in which Hrebiniak provides a strategy execution survey conducted by The Wharton School of Pennsylvania and GartnerG2 in 2003. There are references to survey results throughout the book. For example, responses to a section on “Obstacles to Strategy Execution” (Table 1.1 on page 17). I also appreciate various reader-friendly devices which Hrebiniak employs such as graphic illustrations (e.g. Figure 8.1 on page 267 which depicts a model of culture and culture change) and checklists as well as a Summary of key points at the end of each chapter.
Here are three brief excerpts from Hrebiniak’s narrative:
“The operational aspects of strategic and short-term objectives means that these objectives are measurable. They are useful for strategy execution if they measure important results. Strategy m,ust be translated into metrics that are consistent with strategy and measurable. Only then can the results of execution be adequately assessed. Without these useful metrics, successful evaluation of execution results is not possible.” (Page 88)
“In essence, [GE’s] ‘Work Out’ was run as an example of decision-making characterized by reciprocal interdependence. The methods of achieving integration or coordination were consistent with this form of interdependence and no doubt contributed to its success. In addition to Welch’s philosophy and GE culture, the processes and methods of defining interdependence and coordination needs were important to ‘Work Out’’s contributions to problem definition and to making strategy work.” (page 157)
“To change culture, don’t focus directly on culture itself or the underlying defining aspects of culture: values, norms, and ‘credos.’ Don’t try to change attitudes, hoping for a change in behavior. Focus instead on behavior....The logic here is twofold:. First, it is virtually impossible to appeal to people top change their beliefs, values, or attitudes....Second, it is important to recall that culture both affects behavior and performance [begin italics] and [end italics] is affected and reinforced by behavior and performance....How does one change behavior and, ultimately, culture? The answer is by changing people, incentives, controls, and organizational structure, as Figure 8.1., suggests.” (page 272)
Credit Hrebiniak with writing an immensely thoughtful as well as practical book in which he explains with meticulous care how to formulate an appropriate strategy, then executive it effectively despite resistance which can sometimes be formidable, and thereby produce results which may otherwise be unachievable.
Decision-makers in larger organizations may derive greater value from Hrebiniak’s book because they have a wider and deeper range of possible applications of the processes, decisions, and actions he recommends. However, as I read this book, I realized that inappropriate strategies and/or poor execution of strategies may help to explain statistics which Michael Gerber cites in his E-Myth Mastery: "Of the 1 million U.S. small businesses started this year [2005], more than 80% of them will be out of business within 5 years and 96% will have closed their doors before their 10th birthday."
These are indeed chilling statistics. Therefore, I highly recommend Hrebiniak’s book to all decision-makers in all organizations, regardless of size or nature. Also to all students who are currently preparing themselves for a career in business.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strategy implementation-excellent coverage, 30 Jun. 2007
This book by Lawrence Hrebiniak provides an integrated approach to to a neglected area.The underlying research based on the experience of hundreds of managers is a major strength together with the authors own consulting experience.

The author in the late stages of a long career shares his insights with you.The Wharton Business School in the US where he is based is different to other Business schools in running workshops on this topic, which is neglected by other institutions.If I could afford to attend one of his workshops I would do so, his book is a good alternative.

What you get for your money is coverage of key areas-organisation structure and execution,effective coordination,incentives etc and a case study that pulls it all together.

The author highlights the problem of speed in strategy implementation and how large complex changes can be damaged by changing to many things at once.He stresses that it may be desirable and necessary but is fraught with problems.

If you want a contrasting approach to organisational change that sets out how to plan and execute rapid change see " Fast Forward - Organisational change in 100 days" - Oxford University Press - by E Murray and P Richardson.The basis of their research appears more limited than Hrebiniak's work, but is still a very useful source of ideas/guidance.

Making strategy work is a book that I will refer to frequently in my work as an interim manager/consultant.

The following article is worth a look from the Jan/Feb, 2010 - Harvard Business Review:

- Accelerating Corporate Transformations.(Dont lose your nerve!)
Six mistakes that can derail your company`s attempts to change.

Stan Felstead-Interchange Resources UK.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Work in progress, 6 Jun. 2009
By 
Peter Pudaite (Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book was the primary text for our Strategy Implementation module for the UCD Smurfit Executive MBA course. It was universally reviled and even the lecturer admitted that he had issues with the book. However there was no better alternative.

The book organises itself around the top issues related to strategy implementation from a Wharton-Gartner and Wharton Exec Ed survey. Here lies the first issue. Though Hrebniak imparts his immense experience and thoughts on these subject areas individually, he fails to do any rigorous analysis on the underlying issues (root cause or causes if any exist) which may link them together or possibly suggest that other areas need attention. As he fails to do this the subsequent discussions in each chapter fail to pull together strongly. One of the points the Hrebniak makes is that strategy implementation requires strong cohesion in objectives, plans, actions and metrics, yet his book fails to show that same level of cohesion.

There were numerous points of issues with some of the models and approaches Hrebniak presents. Most are related to apparent failure to consider certain practical issues but none fatally question the rationale.

Two specific examples:

1) Managing Change: Hrebniak has a very strong preference for implementing change in a sequential manner, emphasising the need to learn from cause-effect analysis. In real life, it is rarely practical to implement change in a primarily sequential manner. Often several strategic level changes will have to occur due to time constraints. Concomitantly, cause-effect analysis often takes a back seat which is unfortunate. Rather than drawing on his experience and helping the reader to understand how to tease out the complexities of balancing speed of execution and maximal learning, Hrebniak presents a black and white theoretical description of change management strategies.

2) Culture Change: Hrebniak presents a flow process for culture change where he relies on performance measurement to decide whether a culture is "good" or "bad". Asides from the can of worms of what is "good" or "bad" culture which he adroitly avoids discussing, he fails to realise or, more kindly, highlight that metrics can easily miss characteristics of good and bad of culture. In other words pick your metrics carefully. Looking at the banking crisis, short term performance metrics were blamed for the high level of longterm systemic risk that was taken in lieu of short term gains. Anyone remember "You get what you measure"? Hrebniak missed this out totally.

Strangely, Hrebniak makes no reference whatsoever to common/popular tools or methodologies. No mention of Balanced Scorecard or Performance Prism or Kepner-Trego Matrix or Strategy Maps or McKinsey Matrix... Given that these tools or methodologies are often in use to guide strategy implementation, it is odd that Hrebniak neither critiques them or references them in presenting his ideas and models, even though there may be strong similarities or share the same rationale.

So don't buy this book and expect to blindly follow his recommendations or find THE answer. You have to apply critical thinking at all times. So in this respect, given Hrebniak's experience, it is disappointing that he doesn't discuss some obvious practical issues and sometimes focuses on a model rather than the practicalities of applying it.

On a stylistic point, Hrebniak has a tendency to ramble a bit, needlessly repeating himself. He also tends to regale anecdotes which do not necessarily impart additional insight except maybe as a way to bolster the validity of an idea.

So overall, it reads ok, the content would probably benefit from a second or third revision of thinking.

In absolute terms its not the best read but in relative terms no one as yet has pointed out a better book on strategy implementation.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A decent framework, 11 Jun. 2011
I used this book as part of my Strategy Implementation course on my MBA. It offers a lot of good advice and direction for thought. The framework used is solid, but it works a lot better in conjunction with either some case studies or group discussion. New ways of thinking are vital in today's marketplace, and one person with one book is less likely to get these than a group of people with the book.

If using this in business, I would suggest getting a group to read the book (it's easy to read with a nice, modular layout) and then discuss it afterwards. Even for a startup scenario, it is vital to think about a framework with regard to the future structure and culture of the company. This book provides that framework.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Neophyte's Guide to Selecting and Implementing Strategy, 21 Jun. 2005
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
Corporate strategy was a relatively new subject when I first became a strategy consultant in 1971. I remember executives picking bad strategies right and left and being totally clueless about how to implement a good strategy if they happened upon one.
Making Strategy Work is a good reminder that there are still organizations out there that have never picked a strategy that worked or implemented a workable strategy successfully. Yet these organizations are full of graduates of the most stellar business schools who know all the strategic management and planning lingo.
Professor Hrebiniak starts with the academic strategic lingo and clearly distills the key lessons of choosing and implementing strategies into bite-sized pieces for large organizations to implement.
It's not surprising that this book is filled with examples from the old AT&T and its remaining pieces, General Motors, Sears and other organizations known for their strategic problems. Mr. Hrebiniak has been there and done that in consulting for such organizations for many years, and describes their mind set well.
Naturally, if you are of more innovative and entrepreneurial orientation, you won't find this book nearly as interesting. But it's an important contribution to the literature that I'm surprised that someone didn't write long before now.
Well, they sort of did write this book before now. You can find pieces of this book in various books and articles . . . but Making Strategy Work is a convenient place to find all of those pieces in one place . . . for those who haven't developed and implemented a successful strategy before to get a sense of what they should be doing.
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