Strategy Bites Back: It Is Far More, and Less, than You Ever Imagined

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9780131857773: Strategy Bites Back: It Is Far More, and Less, than You Ever Imagined

Strategy Bites Back is the antidote to conventional strategy books -- and conventional strategy formation. Edited by the legendary Henry Mintzberg, it contains contributions from everyone from Gary Hamel to Napoleon Bonaparte, Michael Porter to Hans Christian Andersen: essays, poems, case studies, cartoons, whatever it takes to 'free your mind' and unleash the crucial emotional side of strategy formation. Coverage includes: strategy and brinkmanship, culture, seduction; strategy lessons from your mother, from beehives, chess grandmasters, even the National Zoo. Along the way, Mintzberg and his colleagues take on the sacred cows and entrenched beliefs that keep strategists from recognizing their most powerful options. Strategy Bites Back doesn't just make strategy fun: it helps define strategies that offer huge upsides and real inspiration.

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About the Author:

Henry Mintzberg normally bites back on issues of management, organization, and corporate social irresponsibility (i.e., shareholder value), as well as management education and strategy. (Managers not MBAs, with Berrett-Koehler in the U.S. and Financial Times-Prentice Hall in Europe was his last book.) He managed to get a Ph.D. degree in management at MIT and has slipped about 130 articles past unsuspecting editors. He is the Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University.

Bruce Ahlstrand likes to prospect for strategy gems in unlikely places, from the game of Texas Hold'em to the Greek tragedies. He is devoted to developing new and creative ways of teaching business strategy and has never met a case study that he liked. He has a Doctorate from Oxford University and an M.Sc. degree from the London School of Economics. He is a professor of management at Trent University in Ontario, Canada.

Joseph Lampel began his career believing that strategy is the answer but has recently concluded that it might be the answer to the wrong question. Joe was awarded a Ph.D. degree in management by McGill University for good behavior. He subsequently spent seven years at Stern School, NYU, trying to break into show business. He resides at Cass Business School, City University London, an institution that happily accommodates his quest to find the answer to strategy's unanswerable questions.

Henry, Bruce, and Joe are also the authors of the best-selling Strategy Safari

(Financial Times-Prentice Hall).


© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Strategy Bites Back

Strategy can be awfully boring. The consultants can be straighter than we academics, not to mention the planners. Everybody is so serious. If that gets us better strategies, fine. But it often gets us worse ones–standard, generic, uninspiring. Strategy doesn't only have to position but it also has to inspire. So an uninspiring strategy is really no strategy at all.

The most interesting companies we know, often the most successful, are not boring. They have novel, creative, inspiring, sometimes even playful strategies. By taking the whole strategy business less seriously, they end up with more serious results–and have some fun in the bargain.

So this book has a serious intention: to take strategy less seriously and so promote better strategies. Besides, why not have a good time reading a strategy book for a change. Isn't it time for strategy to bite back?

The three of us teamed up earlier to do a serious book on strategy, albeit with a not-so-serious title: Strategy Safari. We played with that title here and there but mostly we set out to order and review the serious literature about strategy. We think we did a good job and recommend that book to you. It was written for your head–now here comes one for your heart. As you may have noticed, heads and hearts go together. So this book fills the gap in a field with so much head.

We organized Strategy Safari around ten schools of thought, from planning to positioning, visionary to venturing, etc. We use a similar structure here but with seven views, renamed and lightened up. But that is where these two books part company. For here we don't so much offer straight description as images, impressions, insights. Most books say it. If you read the words, they assume you got it. The trouble is you can just as quickly lose it. So here we set out, whenever possible, to show it so that you can see it. Then you'll never forget it.

We call this collection bytes because we searched for really interesting excerpts on strategy, as short as we could find, or make, them. We wanted each to have a maximum of three pages. Most, but not all, do. You will find some classic material among these bytes, drawn from key sources, supplemented with stories of strategy in action, often with an unusual twist. But mostly this book contains all kinds of wild and wooly things–poems, quotations, cartoons, . . . whatever we could find on paper that enlightens about strategy. We did not want nutty stuff, at least for its own sake, but eye-opening stuff, which can sometimes appear nutty. Bear in mind that many of the great strategies of this world initially appeared nutty, too.

We also call some of these readings bites because we have felt no obligation to always be polite about all this. We did not look for criticism for its own sake, but neither have we shied away from critical material that provides insight. Entrenched beliefs that have outlived their usefulness sometimes have to be challenged by a good push. And strategy certainly is a field full of such beliefs. One of our beliefs, in contrast, is that there are no prophets in this field. There are certainly people worth paying attention to, and we give many of them space in this book, but none is a prophet because all views are vulnerable. Only when you, as a reader, put them together–see them in juxtaposition and combine them in application–do they come usefully alive. As Gary Hamel put it, starkly, "The dirty little secret of the strategy industry is that it doesn't have any theory of strategy creation." Strategy has to come out of a creative process conducted by thoughtful people. Profits and prophets don't mix well in strategy.

We summarize below the various views that make up the main chapters of this book, sandwiched between a first one to get you going, on that word "strategy," and a last one to ease you back into the real world of shareholder value and other easy answers.

SWOTed by Strategy

We begin with the most established view of strategy, epitomized by the conductor up on the podium–a favored metaphor, in fact. Here, the chief pronounces strategy from on high so that everyone else can scurry around "implementing" it.

Key to this view is achieving a fit between internal Strengths and Weaknesses and external Opportunities and Threats–hence the SWOT model. It has much to recommend it, as you will see in some of the bytes, and lots to be critical about, too, as you will see in the bites. After all, the conductor has rehearsals, too, and they do not always go quite so smoothly as the concert. Besides, who is the real strategist–the conductor or the composer?

Strategy Carefully

Open your newspaper and turn to the horoscope. (Maybe you do already but don't tell anybody.) There your future is neatly laid out for you. This second view of strategy is curiously similar. It proceeds on the basis that the future can be laid out for organizations. It's called strategic planning and has been all the rage among American corporations and communist governments; they both like to control things. Of course, strategic planning is surrounded by all sorts of fancy paraphernalia: checklists, techniques, systems galore. But when you think about it, so too is astrology. (One of the bites lets you so think about it.)

OK, enough of the bite. Strategic planning is a serious business. The readings suggest why. They also suggest that strategic planning does not create strategies so much as plan out the consequences of strategies already created. That, too, is a serious business.

Figuring Strategy

Here the strategist metamorphoses one step further, from the chief of SWOT and the planner of planning to the analyst of positioning.

Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School gave this view its great impetus, following on some earlier work by consulting firms, itself preceded by two millennia of theorizing about military strategy.

Here strategy reduces to generic position selected through systematic analysis: under condition x, you had better do y. So the job of the strategist is not to create new strategies so much as select the best of proven ones. Consultants and academics love this because it allows them to sink their teeth into some good "hard data" and promote their "scientific" truths. But has it been good for companies? Read on.

A Vision of Strategy

Moses came down from the mountain with "the word" on the tablets, only to discover everyone else worshiping the Golden Calf. Visionaries have had similar problems ever since. The great leaders appear with their great messages while the rest of us want to get on with our narrow prejudices.

The visionary–in business often the entrepreneur, but sometimes also niche players and turnaround artists in established organizations–sees beyond the designs, plans, and positions of the earlier views, to strategy as perspective–a unique worldview. As a consequence, out goes systematic planning and careful figuring and in comes inspiration, insight, and intuition in the leader's head.

Conventional consultants, planners, and academics are not amused: It leaves them little room to maneuver. And that, in turn, gave us great room to maneuver. The stories of the visionaries are wonderful; what a rich choice we had! But be careful; great stories can be dangerous ones, sometimes a little too enticing.

Inside the Strategist's Head

Wouldn't it be nice to know what goes on inside the head of someone making strategy? Some researchers–mostly cognitive, psychologists so-called–worry about that. Think of the tantalizing questions: How does the brain come up with a new idea? How do we process information? How do we put these together into strategies? Indeed, what form does strategy take in the brain: a model? a frame? a map? Unfortunately, the researchers have not gotten very far yet–these processes remain mysterious–but far enough to provid...

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