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Simplified Strategic Planning: The No-Nonsense Guide for Busy People Who Want Results Fast Paperback – 15 Sep 1999
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Strategy is one of those words that nearly everyone feels obliged to use but it's often difficult to put a finger on what it means when you are trying to think strategically or even to prepare a strategic plan. It is hard to see effective strategy in action although when you do see, you are wowed by how well everything fits together.
There are some great books on strategy but they are all heavy reading and best left to the strategy experts and want-to-be strategy experts. This book is different. It helps with its practical step-by-step approach which contrasts sharply with many of the strategy books you will see in the book shop targeted at academics and MBA students.
It assumes little knowledge of strategy. It won't suit anyone who is looking for an in-depth assessment of cutting edge strategies but that's not what the book is about.
I like the way that the book strips strategy down to three big questions - but then it is an approach I also use in my own business coaching:
1 What are you go to sell?
2 Who are you going to sell to?
3 How can you beat or avoid the competition?
The book walks you through the Simplified Strategic Planning process.
1 Putting your strategy team together and making sure they understand the importance of the task
2 Defining your market and analysing your market segments
3 Evaluating the competition
4 Assessing your own strengths and weaknesses
5 Looking into the future
6 Evaluating opportunities and threats
7 Designing what a winner will look like
8 Committing to your strategy
9 Communicating it through your mission, goals and objectives
10 Preparing an strategy action plan that works.
I would recommend it to independent businesses with 15 to 100 employees. I don't think smaller businesses will do the work, although they can benefit from it and it will help them to think about the future. Larger companies may need something more sophisticated, either because they have to follow group policies and procedures which may involve topics not included in the book, because one or more of the senior managers are more strategically sophisticated than the book or because they have complex corporate strategy issues across different strategic business units. However if you are suffering from information overload, too much knowledge and trying to do too many different things, then the book very usefully takes you back to basics.
I do have some criticisms of the book. First a little niggle. The book doesn't recognise the contribution made by other strategic planning academics or consultants but the influences are clear. There is no reference list of other books. We all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before.
Second, I would have liked to see more in the book about the development of sustainable competitive advantages and particularly differentiation. That's not a surprise since I write a strategy blog about differentiation.
Third, the authors generally recommend a niche strategy which I agree with based on who the book is targeted towards. There should be more in the book about how to understand what it is that customers in the niche want and are willing to pay for.
I give Simplified Strategic Planning a strong recommendation to buy. It does give you the framework to put together a strategic plan and delivers on the promise in the title.
About my book reviews - I aim to be a tough reviewer because the main cost of a book is not the money to buy it but the time needed to read it and absorb the key messages. 4 stars means this is a good to very good book.
Paul Simister, business coach
This review appeared on my Differentiate Your Business blog in September 2011.
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