Final Food for Thought (CH 9 Strategy Bites Back)

                I found this short article in the last chapter to be quite entertaining. The article excerpt is “Recipes for Cooking Strategy.” As I enjoy to cook, I related well to the lingo of boil, melt, whisk and so on. Although the recipes of strategy and love of strategy may have been a stretch to see, the concept is there regarding the formation of strategy and how the environment, stakeholders, financials, and business structure apply to the strategy as a whole. The recipe is generic but most definitely seems to be a starting point although I believe the recipe to be unique in all different business settings, atmospheres and companies.

Laws of Power (CH 8) by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers

Greene and Elffers’ book The 48 Laws of Power review great political philosophers, conmen, and figures of all time who are known for their strategic excellence. He gives characteristics of the successes of power:

–          Conceal your Intentions – By keeping people in the dark they will follow you regardless of weather they believe or not.

–          Win Through your actions, never through arguments – Demonstrate rather than explain.

–          Use the surrender tactic – transform your weaknesses into power because surrender can give you time to recover.

–          Re-create yourself- Forge new identities that command attention and entertain an audience.

–          Master the art of Timing – Always seem patient because hurrying betrays a lack of control.

Although these are only five of the 48 laws mentioned in this gives example to how political figures regain and sustain power which can also be seen as true in all executive strategic planning and execution.

Good Managers Don’t Make Policy Decisions (CH 7) by H. Edward Wrapp

In this article, Wrapp explains what characteristics are common in successful executives.  The skills he outlines are simple and easily implemented among management. Below are a list of the followings skills that are found common characteristics in successful executives:

–          Keeping Well Informed : Many get lost in the wealth of details and insist on making to many decisions.

–          Focusing Time and Energy: A good manager knows how to save energy and gives personal attention to problems and issues that need direct assistance.  

–          Playing the Power Game: A good manager knows he must work through idea men in different parts of the organization.

–          Value of Sense of Timing: A good manager sets aside a good time frame of completion and then outlines the way to best us time.

–          The Aof Imprecision: A good manager commits himself publically to a specific set of objectives.  

–          Maintaining Viability:  A good manager has a well-defined set of objectives and a clear sense of direction.  

–          Avoiding Policy Straitjackets: A good manager understands the importance of specific and detailed statements of social responsibility.

–          Muddling with a Purpose: A good manager sees opportunities to discover parts that relate to the purpose.

Most of all a manager must be able to understand the vision but know how to implement the vision to see the plan into fruition.

“The Man vs. The Machine” by Charles Krauthammer (CH 6)

In this chapter, the biases and limitations of human judgment are addressed and revealed as a cognitive advantage in strategic thinking and decision making. In the article, “The Man vs. The Machine,” Krauthammer addresses the consistency of calculations done by a machine but the advantage of the human brain in calculating emotion and judgments. He gave an example of a chess game where the computer can seem to out smart the human when playing because one error made by the human is exploited by the computers knowledge of perfect calculations. The human wins when they practice the method of imagination and emotion. The computer can not get embarrassed or experience excitement therefore human can outsmart the computer regardless of the fact the computer can out calculate the machines. The point of this article was to emphasis the fact that the key to strategic thinking and success lays inside the strategist’s head and emotion/ imagination.

“Strategic Thinking as ‘Seeing’” By Henry Mintzberg (CH5)

In this chapter of Strategy Bites Back, the articles focused on how strategy is colorful, visual, and can be see as a picture or diagram. In the article “Strategic Thinking as ‘Seeing,’” Mintzberg describes strategy, not as a recipe, but rather as forms of seeing. Strategic thinking requires …

-Seeing ahead,

-Seeing behind: roots in the past,

-Seeing above: the big picture,

– Seeing below: supports,

-Seeing beside: creative and lateral,

-Seeing beyond: expected futures,

-Seeing through: consequences of the vision.

Although there is not a recipe for strategic thinking according to Mintzberg, Seeing is crucial to the formation of the strategic thinking process.

CH 4: The Soft Underbelly of Hard Data By Henry Mintzberg

Mintzberg begs marketers and managers to consider the value of soft data over the many times favored hard data. Hard data is documented, qualified and structured. Soft data can be seen as vague, unstructured and subject to the options of others. Mintzberg outlines the problems with hard information and promotes soft information in the following points:

1. Hard information is often limited in scope, lacking richness.

–          Soft information on the other hand offers a personal system of information from the customer himself. For example, a single disgruntled customer can sometimes be worth more than a big marketing research report—in understanding customer needs.

2. Much hard information is too aggregated to be of effective use in strategy making.

–          Many things are lost in the process of gather hard data – often the essence of the information. Perhaps studying the conditions, terrain, environment, etc. would help to reveal more information in a clear and concise direction.

3. Much hard information arrives too late to be use in strategy making.

–          Change is inevitable and information becomes dated quickly; therefore hard data is many times recorded and reported when it is no longer useful.

4.Finally, a surprising amount of hard information is unreliable.

–          Although soft information is seen as unreliable due to subjective biases of individuals, hard data is not always transmitted and stored accurately or how it was thought to be relayed.

After Mintzberg defends soft data as a useful source of information, he concludes his article to say that the best information is gained by the use of both hard and soft data. When both are used, rich and meaningful information is gathered and can be examined for best practices.

CH 3: The Seven Deadly Sins of Planning By Ian Wilson

An executive at GE lists the seven deadly sins of strategic planning and they are the following.

1. The staff took over the process. — The planning staff many times takes over the strategy implementation and cut out the executives from the planning.

2. The process dominated the staff. – Many times the process or strategic plan is taken too seriously.

3. Planning systems were virtually designed to produce NO results. – When operation systems and strategic planning systems do not integrate, strategy does not drive action.

4. Planning focused on more exciting game of mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures at the expense of core business development.

5. Planning processes failed to develop true strategic choices. – When planners and executives rush to adopt a strategy, they adopt by default rather than by choice.

6. Planning neglected the organizational and cultural requirements of strategy. – With no focus on the internal environment of the company, the strategy is not effective by only looking externally.

7.  Single-point forecasting was an inappropriate basis for planning in an era of restructuring and uncertainty. – Planning based on one set of scenarios or rules sets the strategy up for surprise in the future.

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