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HBR's 10 Must Reads on Strategy [Paperback]

Harvard Business Review
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 7 2011 HBR's 10 Must Reads
Is your company spending too much time on strategy development--with too little to show for it?

If you read nothing else on strategy, read these 10 articles. We've combed through hundreds of Harvard Business Review articles and selected the most important ones to help you catalyze your organization's strategy development and execution.

HBR's 10 Must Reads on Strategy will inspire you to:

• Distinguish your company from rivals
• Clarify what your company will and won't do
• Craft a vision for an uncertain future
• Create blue oceans of uncontested market space
• Use the Balanced Scorecard to measure your strategy
• Capture your strategy in a memorable phrase
• Make priorities explicit
• Allocate resources early
• Clarify decision rights for faster decision making"

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Review

“…this provides a lot of insight, information, and advice that will help readers.” — Free Press Journal

About the Author

HBR's 10 Must Reads paperback series is the definitive collection of books for new and experienced leaders alike. Leaders looking for the inspiration that big ideas provide, both to accelerate their own growth and that of their companies, should look no further.

HBR's 10 Must Reads series focuses on the core topics that every ambitious manager needs to know: leadership, strategy, change, managing people, and managing yourself. Harvard Business Review has sorted through hundreds of articles and selected only the most essential reading on each topic. Each title includes timeless advice that will be relevant regardless of an ever-changing business environment.

Classic ideas, enduring advice, the best thinkers: HBR's 10 Must Reads.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Top notch collection of HBR works on Strategy Aug. 23 2013
By Charles Dimov TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
The HBR 10 Must Reads series are collections of HBR articles written by thought leaders in their respective fields. On Strategy does a great job of collecting varying perspective from the Balanced Scorecard approach to Reinventing your business strategy, to Blue Oceans Strategies. Great thought leadership pieces, that are inspiring and help seed thought for those who do develop corporate or product/marketing strategy.

Great thought pieces. Hoped that they would be a little more current, but some of older articles have amazing staying power - as elements of the discussion still resonate well in modern business climates.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  35 reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful introduction to the ideas of leading strategy experts Feb. 17 2011
By John Gibbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There are plenty of books available on strategy, but most business leaders do not have a lot of time to read them. Where can you go to get a reasonably-priced introduction to the ideas of some of the leading experts on business strategy? This book provides one possible answer. It includes essays on strategy and the five competitive forces by Michael Porter, building a vision by Collins and Porras, blue ocean strategy by Kim and Mauborgne, and the balanced scorecard by Kaplan and Norton.

Although I found the essays by each of the above-mentioned authors less inspiring and enlightening than their books on the same subjects, this compilation does give a good introduction to their ideas, and will help the reader discern whether to take the next step and read the authors' books. Each essay contains sidebars including an "Idea in Brief" sidebar which will help the busy reader further; however, in the Kindle version the sidebars simply appear in the main text, which interrupts the flow and can lead to confusion.

Not all strategic advice is good advice. In my view the advice given in the essay "Transforming Corner-Office Strategy into Frontline Action" leaves something to be desired. The idea of distilling a company's entire strategy into "one pithy, memorable and descriptive phrase" may appeal to some, but I really struggle to see its value. Examples include AOL ("Consumer Connectivity first - anytime, anywhere"), GE ("Be number one or number two in every industry in which we compete, or get out"), Dell ("Be direct"), and eBay ("Focus on trading communities"). Do any of these actually communicate useful strategies, or are they meaningless mantras?

On the other hand, I found the other essays on essentially the same topic (turning strategy into action) quite useful. "The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution" by Neilson, Martin and Powers and "Turning Great Strategy into Great Performance" by Mankins and Steele gave some very practical steps which a leadership team can take to make a strategy actually happen. All up, I recommend this book as a valuable introduction to strategy.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to create "a unique and valuable position" by deciding what to do...and not do March 6 2011
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Foundation for Strategy March 27 2011
By A. J. Clark - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The first few articles are a bit dry and academic in nature but others are wonderful foundational reading for anyone developing a strategy. This is a solid book for anyone trying to brush up on Strategy theory.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One competitor dominants in a space. Why companies win the space and how they keep it Nov. 10 2012
By Golden Lion - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The basics of strategic competition

1. Understand competitive behavior
2. Understand how a strategy will rebalance competitive equilibrium
3. Understand commitment of resources even if deferred benefits
4. The ability to predict risk and return enough to make a commitment
5. The willingness to act

Barriers to entry
1. Scales to production, research, and marketing are barriers
2. To create barriers companies combine economies of scale with brand
3. Capital requirements limit entry into many markets
4. Entrenched companies may have cost advantage not available to potential reviles
5. A new product must displace existing product by cost reduction, promotions, intense selling efforts, or new distribution channels
6. Regulation can limit entry into a business

Suppliers can exert bargaining power by reducing profitability by raising prices or reducing the quality of their products

A supplier is strong if it does not have to contend with other products in the industry

Buyers find alternate suppliers and play one against another to reduce price or improve quality

Highly profitable buyers are less price sensitive . The buyer is interested in quality

Consumers are more sensitive to price purchasing an undifferentiated product where quality is not an issue

A company improves its strategic position by finding buyers and suppliers that can not a adversely affect it.

Strategy can be thought of as a defense against competition

Know how must be kept a secret to yield an advantage

Access advantages are vulnerable to shifts in availability or prices and sensitive to consumer preferences

Sustainable advantage is greatest when based on several kinds of advantages.

Industries that grow slowly offer more room to sustain advantages

Manufacturers are rebuilding their excellence in production

Stages of manufacturing effectiveness

Stage 1 Detailed management control systems are means to monitor performance
Stage 1 struggles to provide adequate production, help suppliers with problems, and keep equipment up to date. Stage 1 relies on consultants for advice and knowledge. Stage 1 represents a build and assemble mentality.

Stage 2 Capital investment is the means to catch up with competition. Stage 2 avoids introduction of major discontinuous changes in product or process. Stage 2 follows industry practices. Stage 2 believes production rates due to new equipment as the measure of efficiency. Stage 2 have research and development labs they turn to in addition to consultants and suppliers. Stage 2 is increased in capacity gains.

Stage 3 Long term developments trends are developed systematically . Stage 2 is looking out for long term developments and trends that may affect the companies ability to meet needs. Companies arrive at stage 3 through the natural consequences of success in developing business strategy based on formal planning. Stage 3 view technology enhancement as the consequence of changes in business strategy

Stage 4 Long term programs are put into place to acquire capabilities in advance of needs
Stage 4 anticipates new manufacturing practices and technologies. Stage 4 develop long term business plans where manufacturing capabilities play an important role. Manufacturing is a strategic resource.

The inertia of most large companies favors, a gradual, systematic, and cumulative movement through stages

Teamwork and problem solving is better than command and control

Moving to stage 4 involves changing how the organization thinks about manufacturing

Tighter intergration of product design and capabilities leads to flexibility

Mastery of activities at one stage provide the underpinnings for a successful transition to the next stage
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Willow Wanna-Be's June 23 2013
By John W. Pearson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I called them "Willow Wanna-Be's." Back in my Willow Creek Association days, pastors and church board members would show up, often unannounced, and ask for 10 Easy Bullet Points on Growing a Really Big Church. (Actually, they never had time for 10 points. "Make it three--but give us your best stuff.")

So, we'd talk about Kingdom principles and the church's mission and heart to reach seekers. Later, we talked about strategy--the God-honoring kind. But the Looky Lou's (look it up--a descriptive Chicago traffic term) would ask about plexiglass pulpits, drama scripts, and cool lighting.

Had Ian Morgan Cron's book been written back then, I would have quoted chapter and verse from Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale. Cron's fictional megachurch pastor-in-crisis, reminisces, "I remember telling our architect that I wanted all the technological goodies you'd find in a world-class performing arts center. Looking back, I realize that what I had asked for was `lights, camera, action!' rather than `Father, Son and Holy Ghost.'"

I was reminded of my Willow days (good memories) last week when I re-read the classic Harvard Business Review article, "What Is Strategy?" by Michael E. Porter. He writes, "Bit by bit, almost imperceptibly, management tools have taken the place of strategy."

Citing the conventional wisdom over the previous two decades where "managers have been learning to play by a new set of rules," Porter dismisses that corruption with this zinger: "But those beliefs are dangerous half-truths, and they are leading more and more companies down the path of mutually destructive competition."

What is strategy? Porter has five bullet points in his 18-page article:

Number 1: "Operational effectiveness is not strategy." He notes, "The root of the problem is the failure to distinguish between operational effectiveness and strategy."

Number 2: "Strategy rests on unique activities." The poster companies here are Southwest Airlines and Ikea. "Strategic competition can be thought of as the process of perceiving new positions that woo customers from established positions or draw new customers into the market." Strategic positions can have three sources: variety-based positioning, needs-based positioning, and access-based positioning.

Number 3: "A sustainable strategic position requires trade-offs." Porter writes, "The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do."

Remember Continental Lite, the Southwest Airlines wanna-be? They decided to "straddle" their position as a full-service airline (hubs), while competing in some markets with Southwest (Point A to Point B). They confused their full-service customers and infuriated travel agents. "Trade-offs ultimately grounded Continental Lite. The airline lost millions of dollars, and the CEO lost his job." Bottom line: "Continental paid an enormous straddling penalty."

Number 4: "Fit drives both competitive advantage and sustainability." What is Southwest's core competence? Its key success factors? The correct answer is that everything matters. Southwest's strategy involves a whole system of activities, not a collection of parts. Its competitive advantage comes from the way its activities fit and reinforce one another."

And get this, Looky Lou's: "Fit locks out imitators by creating a chain that is as strong as its strongest link." It's not the seeker service drama, or the band, or the spiritual gifts training, or small groups, or pastors in old jeans with no socks--it's the whole, holy enchilada.

Three half-page diagrams, "Mapping Activity Systems," for Ikea, Vanguard and Southwest Airlines deliver the "Aha!" insight on what Porter means by fit--"nests of tightly linked activities." He writes, "Positions built on systems of activities are far more sustainable than those built on individual activities."

"Fit means that poor performance in one activity will degrade the performance in others, so that weaknesses are exposed and more prone to get attention. Conversely, improvements in one activity will pay dividends in others."

With just three pages to go, Porter finally reveals his mega-simple definition: "Strategy is creating fit among a company's activities." He comments, "The success of a strategy depends on doing many things well--not just a few--and integrating among them. If there is no fit among activities, there is no distinctive strategy and little sustainability."

Number 5: "Rediscovering strategy." In his wrap-up, Porter warns about "the failure to choose" and the "growth trap." Churches beware: "Among all other influences, the desire to grow has perhaps the most perverse effect on strategy." He concludes with five soul-searching questions.

My gut: many nonprofits, churches and companies do not have--at their core--a revenue problem or new idea problem; they have a strategy problem. This is a powerful article.
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