A book that sounds a bit 'dorky' like this one I normally leave alone for fear of empty words. But I am very happy to have picked this one up!
Rummelt is a very senior strategist to big and smaller firms, and have seen where they can go wrong: confusing objectives with strategy ("our strategy is to grow revenue"), strategy with excel sheets or (worst of all, and very hot right now) confusing leadership ("a will to succeed") with strategy.
Instead, he outlines a simple yet powerful method of building a strategy:
1. diagnose the situation and determine the key challenge for the organisation/firm
2. develop/create a guiding policy (Porter would say, competitive strategy) to overcome the challenge or reap the opportunity
3. develop and execute a coherent action plan.
He goes on the enrich each of these parts, which to a certain extent have been discussed elsewhere (Porter, Ansoff, Hamel, Kaplan) but not in such a concise and easy to follow way.
The strength of the book is not only in how strategies should be build and executed, but also how many companies go wrong: e.g. that your strategy needs commitment from the organization is ruthlessly attacked: if the entire organisation agrees with the strategy, there is no 'hard' choice involved. A strategy that pleases all in the end does not deliver. Though provoking and pragmatic at the same time.
What I personally found most pleasing is that Rummelt does not say that planning is better than execution, or leadership is superior or not, but that all are parts in a chain that need to fit together. You need strategy AND execution AND leaderhip AND creativity/innovation AND ...while simultaneously focusing your energy.
If you are in a leadership or management position in any organisation, private or public, I highly recommend this book for its framework, coherence and ease of understanding, combined with its focus on the essential elements and pitfalls.
I had heard of Zappos as the online shoestore, but never as the company that sees its culture as its core competence. The book outlines Tony Hsieh's (the owner/CEO) personal business biography and combines it with the steps he and his team took to build Zappos.
Tony shows that success is also a matter of luck: Zappos hovered on the brink of bankruptcy for a few years and only his own wealth prevented it until finally some investors put money on the table, and even then it took 4-6 years before Zappos was out of the danger zone.
The book is a very nice story, and although Tony is not a narrator (he speaks a bit fast) his enthusiasm and personal touch make him the ideal storyteller nonetheless. I am not much for biographies, so the book for me became really interesting when he starts to describe how he build the culture of the company step by step. Not planned or methodical, because that's not how it works, but purposeful with deep commitment from his colleagues, co-workers and the extended Zappos family.
For any organisation that wishes to strengthen (or make explicit) its culture, this book gives plenty of ideas and suggestions on how to do it and what might result from it. Not only for startups or internet companies, but for any organisation bigger than 25 people. Some ideas that Tony shares:
- hire only people that share your values: that way, the live what the company stands for instead of following their own agenda
- teach company values in a intensive introductory training
- live the company values also with your suppliers (it is easier with your customers)
- have your employees co-determine the values of your organisation. Re-iterate them regularly, to see if the culture is still where you want it to be. A 'culture book' helps to both verify the culture as well as share it with new employees
- encourage community and getting to know other employees outside your own department: this fosters a 'we' feeling (instead of departmental kingdoms)
- share, commit and take risk also as managers.
The culture of Zappos might not be the culture you wish or have, but that is not the point. The key is that a strong culture can strengthen your position and can be purposefully built. Try it yourself!
Apparently, the 'lean startup' has a large following. I had never heard of the book or the concept, but lean inspired me ever since Jeff Liker's book about Toyota.
The Lean Startup in my opinion is a totally different approach, although it borrows the concept of waste. But how waste is avoided is a different route altogether.
First, it is 'lean' under a cloud of uncertainty. The more uncertain the future (of sth) is, the better this approach works. Basically, to avoid waste is to have a clear understanding of your key assumptions, and then testing these assumptions as fast and with as little effort as possible. And of course, with a good monitoring system to understand the results of what you tested. Topline growth is not. Cohort/group and split testing is.
The book is written as a guide to startups, but it is valid with anything innovative. And thus for any business that tries to innovate something, anything. Many organisations are dissatifsfied with their innovation efforts, and this book guides you to how to improve the process.
Well worth the read. The author is not really a narrator, though. He should have left this to a professional. Not bad, but not great either.
The author has a lot of really good ideas and really makes the point that time is a valuable resource. She tends to overdo it sometimes about the idea that every minute of your time has to be precisely planned. I don't believe that, and I don't believe that approach is always useful.
The narrator read too slowly for me, so I had to speed it up to double time to stay awake. The book is good, the narrator is just too slow.
Overall, you will get some really great ideas about time management from this book as long as you don't let the concept of overly planned time drive you insane.