This volume is one of several in a new series of anthologies of articles that initially appeared in the Harvard Business Review, in this instance from 1960 until 2006. Remarkably, none seems dated; on the contrary, if anything, all seem more relevant now than ever before as their authors discuss what are (literally) essential dimensions of formulating and then executing an effective strategy.
My own opinion is that strategies are "hammers" that drive tactics ("nails) and the key is to get a strategy in proper alignment with the ultimate objectives as well as with an organization's various activities. That said, what we have in this volume is a variety of thoughtful perspectives on strategy provide by those who are among the world's most highly-regarded authorities on the subject.
More specifically, the reader learns how to understand what strategy is and isn't as well as what it does and (doesn't) do, and, how to manage/leverage the five competitive forces that shape strategy (Michael E. Porter); also, how to build a company's vision (James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras), how to reinvent a business model (Mark W. Johnson, Clayton M. Christensen, and Henning Kagermann), how to formulate and then execute a "blue ocean strategy" (W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne), how to take full advantage of the "secrets" of effective strategy execution (Gary L. Neilson, Karla L. Martin, and Elizabeth Powers), how to use the Balanced Scorecard as a strategic management system (Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton), how to transform corner-office strategy into frontline action (Orit Gadiesh and James L. Gilbert), how to turn great strategy into great performance (Michael C. Mankins and Richard Steele), and gain a much better understanding of how clear decision roles enhance organizational performance (Paul Rogers and Marcia Blenko).
Each article includes two invaluable reader-friendly devices, "Idea in Brief" and "Idea in Practice" sections, that facilitate, indeed expedite review of key points. Some articles also include what I characterize as "business nuggets" in which their authors focus on even more specific subjects such as "Finding New Positions: The Entrepreneurial Edge" (Porter, Page 10), "Big Hairy, Audacious Goals Aid Long-Term Vision" (Collins and Porras, 96), "A snapshot of blue ocean creation" (Kim and Mauborgne, 130-132), "Translation vision and strategy: four perspectives" and "Managing strategy: four processes" (Kaplan and Norton, 172 & 173), and "A Decision-Making Primer" (Rogers and Blenko, 236-237).
These ten articles do not - because they obviously cannot - explain everything that one knows to know and understand about the formulation and execution of an effective strategy. However, I do not know of another single source at this price (currently $14.23 from Amazon) that provides more and better information, insights, and advice that will help leaders to achieve success in the business dimensions explained so well by the authors of the articles in this volume.
A good range of stuff from some of the key thinkers, in fairly brief form. It does however stay mainly in the more traditional territory of planned, rational strategising models. You may want to go elsewhere if you want some stronger challenge and critique of this worldview, but it's all good stuff..
The book takes the ten articles that have been chosen as the most valuable by the book’s editor - clearly this is a subjective choice.
The main focus of the articles is the behavioural aspects of decisions with, in our view, rather too little coverage of analytical tools and techniques. Of the remaining articles, three focus on decision making processes and these become rather tedious, focussing more on what can go wrong than what is needed to get them right. There is however one excellent article by Bain - the last in the book - on the negative aspects of complex annual planning processes and how these tend to stop the right decisions being taken at the right time. This should be read by the CEOs and CFOs of those companies whose annual planning cycles dominate business life for months on end; we’ve come across quite a few.
Despite these reservations the book and series is recommended for those who want to keep in touch with academic thinking on particular topics. Each article has an excellent short summary under the ‘Idea in Brief’ heading, which allows the reader easily to focus on issues of particular interest.