The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World MP3 CD – Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged
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About the Author
Walter Kiechel III is the former Editorial Director of Harvard Business Publishing, former Managing Editor at Fortune magazine, and author of Office Hours: A Guide to the Managerial Life. He is base in New York City and Boston.
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The author dispassionately narrates the 'story' - without taking sides, and without getting overwhelmed by the subject matter, or without spewing vitriol towards the much-maligned profession of consulting. He explains the approaches of stalwarts like Bain, Gluck and Porter, and how they helped shape the consulting space.
What I really liked about this book is that it is not aimed at CxO-level people. Even as a comparatively new entrant to consulting (or even as an outsider), you can learn much about the consulting evolution.
This book is definitely going to stay on my list of business must-reads for a long time to come.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
It was interesting for me to learn along the way how each firm looked at itself (McKinsey - the champions of C-Suite relationships, BCG - pioneers of many strategy constructs drunk on its own intellect, Bain - impact stock price over multi-year engagements & the like). The other interesting part was that this story is not just the story of consulting firms & their businesses. It is also a story of Harvard Business School & how its curricula, faculty, & the overall MBA program changed over the years on the back of Porter's contributions to strategy. Thirdly, nothing of any significant impact has been tabled supporting people as a strategic asset though right from Tom Peters & many others like him have never really had any dearth of constructs (The S Curve, for example) that center on people as a strategic asset. Along the way, came the stark definition of strategy parred down to "means of creating shareholder value" culminating in PE firms - the ultra-rational business - that became big recruiters of strategy firms. The breakdown of the value chain model of a business tying suppliers, financiers, businesses & consumers started to wobble with the coming of the internet & the ensuing search for a new model to led rather esoteric "network models" that nobody could implement.
The twenty first century story of strategy, as you'd imagine given the collapse of the financial system, is not the most redeeming. And while a bulk of blame might reside within both the actual financial services companies & the lax regulatory environment, Kiechel points out that these Financial Services companies were all great recruiters of strategy consulting firms, albeit by the time of the crisis, these firms were no longer in the C-suite as much as they used to be earlier. Having said that "strategy as risk management", many concede, was a concept that never really took off. The final chapter is really a lot of very interesting speculation on the future of strategy & how to build strategy in the DNA of organizations, how strategy needs to be "adaptive" & the kind of organization that'll thrive is a learning & a democratic one where strategic insights are fostered from just about anywhere & these are then assimilated into the organization's functions.
All in all, this is a story of remarkably gifted people, high on analytical ability, aggressive & champions of devising constructs that had a tremendous impact on many businesses & lifted the business school from the lower rungs of the academic ladder to one of the top ones.If nothing else, this one fact remains indisputable.
I do wish that the book went beyond the idea that Strategy is a vocation will go further into a metamodel of how people make or break organizations and markets. For a book written post 2008 , we hear less of how the lords of strategy ( past and those evolving now) understand the impact of widespread access to information and data as well as the ability to rapidly process information to develop and prove/disprove hypotheses.
However, the book is an absolute must-read for anyone with an interest in the profession of strategic planning and strategy consulting.
From a pure history perspective, this book is fantastic. It does not seek to impart to the reader an ability to develop or apply strategy, rather it gives the practitioner a solid understanding of where the tools came from and how their use has evolved.
Unfortunately, it appears the author was not writing to a general business audience as his use of words found only in the higher reaches of academia and references to obscure social contexts will drive many readers away. The author clearly posses a strong command of the english language, I prefer books where it is used to enhance readability.
I would have rated the book 4 stars but the choice of obscure words and references brings this book back to a 3 star rating from me.