During a recent business trip, I stopped by an airport store and saw a display of several volumes of the "Essential Managers" series. I purchased this one as well as John Seymour and Martin Shervington's Maximizing Performance, read both while en route home and was surprised, frankly, to find each to be remarkably comprehensive within a 69-page narrative. Obviously, the subject of strategic thinking is vast and complicated. No single book could possibly cover everything, nor do Bruce and Langdon make any such claim. What they offer is a focus on fundamentals, as do the volumes that comprise the Harvard Business Essentials series.
First, Bruce and Langdon share their definition of strategy, examine the strategic process, suggest how to balance pursuit of both short- and long-term goals, prepare for strategic success, and anticipate what may lie ahead. Next, they explain how to analyze the given situation in terms of influences, customers, competition, and the given organization's available resources (e.g. the skills and capabilities of its people). Then Bruce and Langdon focus on the strategic planning process itself (definition of purpose, determination of competitive advantage, setting of operational boundaries, selection of points of emphasis, and estimation of probable costs of implementation. They conclude with a series of observations and suggestions concerning strategy implementation.
As I read this book, I was again reminded of Oliver Wendell Holmes' comment, "I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity." To me, that comment suggests the essential value of the "Essential Managers" series, at least of the two volumes I have read thus far. Here's another point. What Bruce and Langdon have to say about the fundamentals of strategic thinking is consistent with what other experts on the subject suggest, notably Peter Drucker, Henry Mintzberg, and Michael Porter. As I read this book, I was also reminded of what Drucker observed in 1963: "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all."
However different they may be in every other respect, all under-performing organizations fail to formulate an appropriate strategy and/or do not implement it effectively. One key word is "appropriate" because a strategy that was appropriate only a few years ago (or yesterday) may no longer be appropriate now. Another other key word is "effectively." With all due respect to the importance of knowing what to do and how to do it, former Texas football coach Darrell Royal is right: "potential" means "you ain't done it yet." Credit Andy Bruce and Ken Langdon with providing a remarkably comprehensive discussion of what to do and how to do it. It remains for those who read their book to apply what they have learned.
on 28 March 2009
I am currently studying for a management diploma and with having to write an assignment on business plans, external factors and personal and organisational development I was looking around for a book to do with strategic planning. I came upon this and it had an intriguing cover and a good review and for the price I thought I'd give it a shot.
If you are thinking of buying this book then as a "pocket guide" with pointers in it is fantastic, but as an indepth guide to strategic planning it was absolutely useless. The book is very pretty to look at (lots of staged photos to demonstrate the points) but no substance.
I'd save your money and buy something a bit more in-depth!