This month’s the book of the month, penned by SPS Fellow Kim Warren, is a wake-up call for many in the strategy community. The Trouble with Strategy has much to teach consultants, business schools and, yes, even the SPS. Warren’s controversial book compels strategists to ask some searching questions.
He asks the reader; “Why should you care about something as rarefied as strategy?”, and makes the case for the importance of strategy in the reasoning that follows. At the heart of all the explanations is one core reason; whether it affects an individual, a family, a business, a society or an economic community, poorly thought out, planned and executed strategy costs.”
One of the biggest recent results of a strategy failure, according to Warren, is the ongoing global downturn. Allowing bankers to be used as scapegoats is an easy option, he says, but it is wrong. “The 2008-09 recession was not just the fault of bankers – it was going to happen anyway. Aside from wars and other big shocks, most recessions start in the corporate sector. They are not triggered by consumers or government cutting back, but by the too-late dawning of reality on over-extended companies.”
Warren argues that ‘regular Joes and Janes’ pay the price when things go wrong, a price that can include the destruction of their careers and their families’ wellbeing. “Strategy failures mess up the entire economy, destroying jobs and wealth on a vast scale.”
The book seeks to explain why strategy is “a mess,” and Kim suggests that “the reasons are not complicated”.
The real punch in the book comes when he argues that, “The methods used to ‘do’ strategy are mostly useless, and they are useless because – unlike, say, accounting, manufacturing, R&D or even marketing – the few principles on which it is based are weak or irrelevant.
“For 50 years, business school research has asked the wrong question about strategy, using methods that cannot work in any case, and looked in the wrong place for answers. This has left the door open for flimsy ideas and methods, often based on little more than journalistic speculation”.
For strategy practitioners and organisations like the SPS, another remark is pertinent: “No other respected profession would find this situation acceptable, and neither should we. It can and should be fixed – for all our sakes!”
Naturally, Warren is very aware of the mission of the SPS to develop strategy as a profession, and is closely involved with our initiatives.
The Trouble with Strategy is available on Kindle via Amazon, Priced £6.37.