The art of making complex things simple
Avaliado no Reino Unido em 14 de setembro de 2014
I've heard it said that the hallmark of genius is being able to take relatively complex subjects and make them simple to understand. Certainly, I've found myself it takes absolute mastery of a subject to really be able to convincingly whittle things down to a simple model.
Richard Rumelt attempts and (I think) achieves this not only with a clear concept (what he calls the "kernel") but with very sound and thoroughly researched justifications. But he doesn't stop there.
For example, he shows the effect of varying the "diagnosis" (the first part of the kernel) and how that can radically change the strategy, with detailed analyses of real situations. This goes beyond the normal "statement of the bleeding obvious" (e.g. the success of Gerstner's transformation of IBM into a service organisation being the salvation of the company) into a detailed walk through of how other analysts' conventional wisdom got it wrong.
I'm not going to summarise the book (you can look at the contents and "Look Inside" features for that), but students of strategy will see familiar concepts here: current situation/challenge definition (the "diagnosis"), policy and coherent action plans. True, all of this and perhaps even more is covered in other works, by Porter and others. And of course outlining the bad helps throw the good into stark relief.
But what I think you'll find here is something I've not seen often enough in strategy writing. Beyond the relatively standard and proven methods like Porter's Five Forces (for which he gives full credit), and case studies, what you'll get here is a keen analysis that breaks things down to the common sense fundamentals. This analysis is backed up with solid research, across so many sectors, that you will probably find some parallels to your situation.
So, you don't just get why the IBM's transformation strategy worked, you'll get a critical analysis of their prior situation and all the other so-called leading opinions on the subject at the time, including how they missed the mark by forgetting some simple basics (in this case, knowing the unique strengths). All of this is backed up with good use of analogy, to help you absorb the key points rapidly.
Very usefully - and far more useful than templates - he provides some very simple methods to drill down on specifics. For example, he provides simple methods, with examples, that help you identify sources of power, how to accurately identify a company strategy's when even they don't know (the Crown Cork & Seal case study is very useful here), how to apply Porter's Five Forces model to critically assess a market, even if it is very new to you, and even how to win over hard-nosed cynics on the value of strategy.
I like also that he doesn't pull his punches. The tone is usually respectful and academic, but down to earth. However, he cannot resist a few swipes at poor strategy and, indeed, even individuals he has met and had disagreement with in the past. There is an almost "Office Space" like decrying of template strategy that is only a hair's breadth away from Ron Livingstone's railing against "listening to eight different bosses droning on about mission statements". But I can allow him this indulgence because it is always in the context of describing bad strategy.
He's also unafraid to tell it like it is: recounting his discussion with Steve Jobs shortly after his return to Apple, he reveals not the detail of the strategy that Jobs was later to devise, but the simplicity and confidence of Jobs' approach to strategy as being as much "waiting for the next big thing" as anything else. Some might think Jobs flippant, but Rumelt proceeds to articulate why waiting for the right time or confluence of events (riding the waves of change, as he puts it) can be so important to latching not just onto any strategy, but the right strategy.
He is also fairly expansive in collating and presenting other useful perspectives, such as the school of critical thinking, which whilst not strictly strategy, is nonetheless an essential tool.
On the downside, whilst the conversational nature of this book is likeable, it can be frustrating if you want to get to "the bit that deals with x, y or z". And there are no "templates" or tools to use: he is quite clear that this is often the route to bad strategy, substituting for clear analysis and critical thinking (indeed, I was left agreeing with him that templates are a blocker, not an aide). But I don't think that's how this book is meant to be used.
This is simultaneously a book for the beginner, as well as a book for the experienced practitioner. Whilst it does a consummate job of explaining the fundamentals is a compelling way, it also would be beneficial to those people who know how to do this, but maybe would benefit from a fresh perspective. I certainly found it refreshing to go back through some of my strategy work and see it anew, with perhaps more critical and a clearer understanding of its flaws.
I personally found this book far more valuable read cover-to-cover than as a book to dip into. As such, you might want to try this as an audiobook: I found this a very effective way to consume it, being very much like listening into a really good business radio programme on Radio 4 (or NPR, for our American cousins).
8 pessoas acharam isso útil