The Strategy Book: How To Think and Act Strategically to Deliver Outstanding Results
If strategy was easy, every company would succeed, but they don’t.
Was it coincidence or great strategic thinking that Google allowed its engineers free time to experiment, eventually leading to the purchase of YouTube and so joining two of the world’s most popular search services? The engineers had come up with an idea for an online video service meaning that senior executives immediately recognised the value of video and made the purchase of YouTube a priority.
Author Max McKeown suggests that there are two extremes of strategic thinking – lengthy financial analysis which is cascaded down to middle management – where it can get lost – or just carrying on as efficiently as possible because events are so unpredictable. McKeown believes clever strategy is found somewhere between the two – trying to plan actions to shape the future, while staying close to events and reacting to them.
“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” Winston Churchill
McKeown’s award-winning book is divided into six parts:
- Your strategic self – how you can shape your future, sell your ideas and become a strategic thinker – Mark Zuckerberg’s first website – Facemash – was built in one weekend just for fun but because it copied an existing idea to rate people’s photos, was soon shut down. He then decided to build something better and Facebook was born – first came the idea and vision and then the planning to make it happen
- Thinking like a strategist – how reacting to events is as important as planning – IKEA succeeded because the founder Ingvar Kamprad lived near some furniture makers and started selling furniture after a cash gift from his father, he then reacted to a boycott by manufacturers by producing his own, and because he couldn’t fit the table in his car, created the first flat-pack, before reacting to his showroom burning down by building a huge replacement, and then reacting to excessive customer demand by starting self-service; how to take risks – because avoiding risks is not the main aim of business; and how you should be looking over your shoulder at your competitors – and being paranoid enough to look up, look down, look back and look ahead
- Creating your strategy – how to make sure you are seeing the bigger picture – not just what’s going to happen next year, but next decade, next century and what’s happening in the wider world – the idea for Twitter came from a podcasting company brainstorming how to survive against Apple. Their success – using SMS as inspiration – came from way beyond the existing plan. It’s also worth recognising that while it’s impossible to make the perfect decision, thinking about how to make a smarter one will put you in good stead
- Winning with strategy – covering everything from creating new markets so that you can operate in less contested territory to achieve greater growth and margins – like Zipcar did; to knowing your strategic space and outperforming the competition – as Amazon did through customer service; and through going global – as Vodafone’s UK founders did through partnerships and acquisitions to make sure they were not dominated by international giants
- Making your strategy work – how you need to find a strategy process that engages the hearts and minds of the company all year and is not just taking senior executives away for a day or two – GE spent two years working out how they could change their strategic process to speed up growth and become more ambitious – they now have a six part circular process that works for them; and how to run effective strategic meetings so that people think and talk openly – even if most people find warm up exercises at away days a little painful they are effective at getting people to open their minds to new ideas – a great session on strategy should involve hard work, laughter and a sense of relief that progress is being made
- A practical tool kit – showing how and when to use nearly 30 different strategic models from Porter’s value chain to McKinsey’s 7-S framework
McKeown believes that getting strategy right – and seeing it as a constant cycle – means that you will be able to shape the future. And now might be the time to start planning how to get there
About the author
Dr Max Mckeown is an author, international keynote speaker and strategic coach for Fortune 100 companies. The Strategy Book won the Commuter Read at the Chartered Management Institute’s Book of the Year Award 2013 and Amazon’s Best Business Books of 2012. His other books include The Innovation Book and Adaptability: The Art of Winning in an Age of Uncertainty.
“If you want to become a better strategic thinker, read Max’s new book. Succinct and to-the-point, he captures the essence of strategy. With a passion and style all of his own, he connects insights from leading strategy gurus to successful practices in leading companies.” Simon Collinson, Professor of Strategy, Henley Business School
“Does exactly what it says on the tin – and does it brilliantly. This book will become a well- thumbed favourite.”
Emma Leech, Director of Marketing, The University of Nottingham
Author: Max McKeown