Editorial Reviews. Review. “Cynthia Montgomery stimulates you as a business leader, to be owner, creator and ongoing steward of your company's strategy. C. A. Montgomery is an awarded author, Harvard Business School Professor and Director in boards outline: it explores what are the key responsibilities of a strategist and how to differentiate between Cynthia A. Montgomery. HarperCollins. The Strategist - Cynthia Montgomery Chapter 8 - The Essential Strategist . Because this role rests with you, The Strategist is a personal call to action.
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THE STRATEGIST commence. Along with five of my fellow faculty, I sit in the “sky deck,” the last and highest row of seats, in Aldrich , an amphitheater- style. Harvard Business School Professor Cynthia Montgomery, writing in The McKinsey this learning speaks to the role of the strategist -- as a meaning maker for. Cynthia A. Montgomery is the Timken Professor of Business. Administration and . job of the strategist is never done, and why the vigil the CEO keeps must be a .
As a field, we had hoisted ourselves on our own petard. We had demoted strategy from the top of the organization to a specialist function. Chasing a new ideal, we had lost sight of the value of what we had—the richness of judgment, the continuity of purpose, the will to commit an organization to a particular path.
With all good intentions, we had backed strategy into a narrow corner and reduced it to a left-brain exercise. In doing so, we lost much of its vitality and much of its connection to the day-to-day life of a company, and we lost sight of what it takes to lead the effort. When I first started working with the group, I used a curriculum that was much like one I would use in any executive program.
Through a series of class discussions and presentations, we discussed the enduring principles of strategy, the frameworks that capture them, and a series of case studies that brought the concepts and tensions alive.
But in between class sessions, the EOP students—all accomplished executives and entrepreneurs—started to ask if they could meet me in my office to talk about various situations they were facing in their companies. These conversations often took place at unusual hours, and sometimes lasted far into the evening. Most started out predictably enough: We talked about the conditions in their industries, the strengths and weaknesses of their own companies, and their efforts to build or extend a competitive advantage.
Often, though, these conversations took a different turn. Alongside all the conventional questions were ones about what to do when the limits of analysis had been reached and the way forward was still not clear; questions about when to move away from an existing competitive advantage and when to try to stay the course; questions about reinventing a business or identifying a new purpose, a new reason to matter.
Working with these managers, typically over three years, and hearing the stories within the stories, I came to see that we cannot afford to think of strategy as something fixed, a problem that is solved and settled. It is a system that evolves, moves, and changes. In these late-night one-on-one conversations, I also saw something else: I saw the strategist, the human being, the leader.
I saw how responsible these executives feel for getting things right. I saw how invested they are in these choices, and how much is at stake. I saw the energy and commitment they bring to this endeavor. I saw their confidential concerns, too: Am I doing this job well? Am I providing the leadership my company needs? And, more than anything, I saw in these conversations the tremendous potential these leaders hold in their hands, and the profound opportunity they have to make a difference in the life of a company.
In those moments together, we both came to understand that if their businesses were going to pull away from the pack, to create a difference that mattered, it had to start with them. In all our lives there are times of learning that transform us, that distance us from the familiar, and make us see it in new ways.
For me, the EOP experience was one of those times. It not only changed some of my most central views about strategy; it gave me a new perspective on the strategist, and on the power and promise of that role.
In these pages I will share with you what I have learned. In doing so, I hope that you will gain a new understanding about what strategy is, why it matters, and what you must do to lead the effort.
I also hope that you will come to see that beyond the analytics and insights of highly skilled advisors and the exhortations of how-to guides, there is a need for judgment, for continuity, for responsibility that rests squarely with you—as a leader.
Because this role rests with you, The Strategist is a personal call to action. It reinstates an essential component of the strategy-making process that has been ignored for decades: The leader. The person who must live the questions that matter most.
In the pages of this book, I refer to this program as the Entrepreneurs, Owners, Presidents program EOP , though the actual name of the program is different.
You can find more information about various executive programs the school offers at www. Where names of companies or individuals are disclosed, it is done with express permission, and the details in the accompanying discussions have been approved for release by the firms. In some instances, I have presented cases in class in a different way than they are described here or used other cases than the ones in this book to make the same important points.
If you closed its doors today, would your customers suffer any real loss? It is evening on the campus of the Harvard Business School. The kickoff orientation to the Entrepreneur, Owner, President program EOP for short , one of the flagship executive programs at the school, is about to begin. Along with five of my fellow faculty, I sit in the sky deck, the last and highest row of seats, in Aldrich , an amphitheater-style classroom characteristic of the school, and watch as the newest group of executives stream into the room.
I see that there are considerably more men than women, and that the majority appear to be in their late thirties to mid-forties.
Most exude an air of seasoned self-confidence. Most arrived on campus within the last few hours and have had just enough time to find their dorm rooms and meet the members of their living groups before heading here to Aldrich. The information they provided in their applications tells part of their stories: Richard, a third-generation U. But this is just a taste of their diversity and accomplishments.
The richer details and the breadth of the class will emerge in the weeks ahead. As the clock ticks past the hour, some last-minute arrivals burst through the door. They are typical first-time EOPers in their lack of concern about being late. That will change in the coming days, as they make the adjustment from the top-of-the-line leather chairs in their offices back home to the standard-issue seats that line the classrooms. Indeed, for their time here, they will be without many of the supports they rely on in their daily lives, such as administrative assistants and subordinates to whom they can delegate work and problems.
Families are strongly discouraged from living near campus and are prohibited from dorms once classes begin. BlackBerrys and cell phones are allowed, but never in class. Two-thirds of their businesses are in service industries, the remainder in manufacturing.
They are here to participate in an intensive management boot camp for experienced business leaders. It spans topics in finance, marketing, organizational behavior, accounting, negotiations, and strategy, and runs for nine weeks in total, divided into three three-week sessions spread over three years. Between sessions, students return to their businesses and start to apply what they have learned. This structure has given the faculty an exceptional opportunity to develop a hands-on curriculum that brings theory and practice much closer together, even for a school that has always championed the connection.
Why do these talented, seasoned managers from every major world culture come to this program? Having seen all the pieces, the student was supposed to put them together.
The course combined thinking and doing, strategy formulation and strategy execution. His course material on the subject was wildly popular because he brought economic rigor to the analysis of strategy.
On its own, that was absolutely good. It transformed the era. My own work followed in that wake. Using large-sample statistical analysis, I examined the relationship between the overall profitability of a corporate enterprise and the average profitability of the industries in which it competed. But over time, the economics began to distract people from the leadership aspect of strategy.
Before long, strategy at many top business schools was taught by economists focused on theory and analytics. If you do this, how will your competitors respond? How do the structural characteristics of an industry shape competitive behavior? All important issues, to be sure, but gradually strategy became an exercise in getting the analysis right, providing the answer, and letting someone else implement it.
That reinforced the idea that strategists were a group with specialized training. Nor do most other business schools. Many students have come to view entrepreneurial management courses as the capstone experience of the MBA curriculum, where you learn about defining businesses, moving them through growth, changing course, and doing it again.
If we care about improving the quality of large-enterprise strategy, we management academics have to avoid hoisting ourselves on our own petard. It started to level off in the early s. I saw that recently when, as part of my work on The Strategist, I talked with several speakers bureaus, thinking the subject of strategy would be hot.
But instead, they said they would market me as a speaker on innovation or change management.
Their interest in my book came not from the topic of strategy per se, but from its focus on what strategy means for business leaders. The discussions helped me come to terms with how much strategy had lost its vitality—its edginess—and the tremendous opportunity we have to embrace it in a new way.
I think other academics are beginning to see the same potential. In countless late-night conversations, I learned a lot about the challenges they faced and their aspirations, and I saw what happened to companies where no one stepped up.
They also rarely talk about how to get others involved, or how to serve as a champion of the process. They get paid to be effective. It takes the whole brain—intuition and analytic skills—to do it well. That has to change. You have to articulate it, choose to invest in it, and create the organizational context where people can bring it [to life]. That means building a system of advantage—a business model tailored to that purpose, where the pieces work in sync, and where the whole is more than the sum of the parts.
Done well, it turns a concept into an animating idea: A clear view of what your company will bring to the world, why it will matter, and how you will do it. Look at a business like Ikea, which I wrote about in The Strategist.
The founder, Ingvar Kamprad, stated his animating idea back in the s. They would offer a line of practical, well-designed furnishings at prices so low everyone could afford them. When you walk into an Ikea store, every detail goes back to that idea.
The difficulty is when you try to create the totality of what we have. Can a multi-business, diversified company also be built around an animating idea? One of my favorite examples comes from Apple. In , when Steve Jobs had only been back at the company for a couple of years as CEO, he gave a presentation at the Macworld Expo in which he talked about the three ages of the PC.
First came the age of productivity, then came the age of the Internet, and now would be the age of the digital hub. Some people argue that a strategy is understood only in hindsight, retrospectively trying to make sense of a group of haphazard, reactive moves. When Apple came out with iTunes, the iPod, and the Apple Store, it all made sense in light of that idea. When you dive into that story, you can see that his victories were hard won. At least it gets you some results.
If your strategy says you should take dramatic, disruptive risks, do you really dare to stand with it and keep supporting it? More importantly, strategy is not a matter of immaculate conception, where you get a single answer and forever rule out other options. As a business, you operate in a complex system of other companies in which any advantage is fragile.
Even Steve Jobs embellished and subtracted as time went on.
You need to think about your strategy as an open, living thing. You start out by defining who you are as a company. The company hit the skids in the s, when counterfeit products and an undisciplined licensing strategy nearly destroyed the brand. Maurizio Gucci, grandson of the founder, stepped in and tried to reposition the company, but customers balked and were slow to come back.
De Sole forged a new purpose built around providing fashion-forward clothing at good value, and rebuilt every activity in the company to align with it. Did Gucci survive? Did it thrive? But it was a different company than it had been in its former heyday, a company that mattered for a different reason. Similarly, when Ingvar Kamprad started out, he was forced to leave Sweden. One must also acknowledge, though, that sometimes the animating idea itself has run its course and more radical action is necessary.
The question remains the same: Why does the world need this company? He or she understands that the quality of execution begins there.
You learn those skills over time. At the next level up, you need to be good with people.