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BOOK REVIEW: The

Strategist: Be The Leader Your


Business Needs by Cynthia
A. Montgomery (2012)
Nurhidayah binti Lod 2011510981
Muhammad Asyraf bin Zabani 2011743015
Muhammad Izzuddin bin Aminuddin
2011779647

Introduction
Cynthia A. Montgomery is well known among people who
has studied a theory known as Resource Based View.
The Strategist is based on her teachings on the
executive education program at Harvard Business
School.
It is an excellent read that challenges managers to think
about their own vision of what they and their organisation
contribute to society.
In the intro, she sets out her stance: Youre about to
get a revisionist view of strategy. Its not that what
youve learned is incorrect. Its that its
incomplete.

Montgomery quotes the German military


commander Helmuth von Moltke, who noted that
no plans survive contact with the enemy, and that
strategy should therefore be viewed as a system
of decision making, of "penetrating the
uncertainty of veiled situations to evaluate facts,
to clarify the unknown, to make decisions rapidly,
and then to carry them out with strength and
constancy".

This book is not really a how-to book explaining how


to put together a strategy for an organization
although it does outline the steps required to do that.
Rather, the key lesson for this book is, as the title
suggests, an explanation of what it is to be a strategist.
Based on three key case studies (IKEA, Apple and
Gucci) the book is an interesting read.
With a nice balance of theory and practical advice the
book provides a good introduction to the idea of
strategy while ensuring that readers realize that
strategy and strategizing are dynamic processes that
necessarily involve change.

My ultimate goal here is not to teach strategy,


says Ms. Montgomery, but to equip and inspire you
to be a strategist, a leader whose time at the helm
could have a profound effect on the fortunes of
your organization.

Summary
The book is far more about the process of being a strategist
rather than just setting down a new set of models to be
learned and applied.
It challenges the reader to ask some fundamental questions
about their own strategy in the company and how they go
about implementing it.
Strategy should not be seen as a one off solution but a
journey in need of continuous, not intermittent,
leadership.
The strategy, like every great strategy, says Montgomery,
was a "system of value creation, a set of mutually reinforcing
parts". Everything the company did reinforced its new focus.

Montgomery encourages leaders and managers


not just to define a strategy but to become a
strategist.
Montgomery teaches mid-career executives at
Harvard and writes that many of them say how
hard it is to kick off the old in pursuit of the new,
but once they have made the choice and taken
the necessary actions, they feel a great sense of
liberation.
The first part of her book quotes heavily from
Michael Porter.

Does your company matter? Thats the most


important question every business leader must
answer. If you closed its doors today, would your
customers suffer any real loss?

The Reality of Strategy


Having seen hundreds if not thousands of such
strategies in their initial form, what is clear to me is
this: Many leaders havent thought about their own
strategies in a very deep way. Often, there is a
curious gap between their intellectual
understanding of strategy and their ability to drive
those insights home in their own businesses. (The
Strategist, page 11)

Failing as a Strategist
The story you will write as a strategist will be set against the
backdrop of your industry. It must be true to its realities, while
having a difference thats all its own. (The Strategist, page 37)
There seems to be, at least, two failings of strategists. The first is
overconfidence, and the second is ignorance.
Overconfidence comes in the form of the super-manager.
Overconfidence is related to ignorance.
a significant measure of a firms success depends on
competitive forces beyond a managers control, and they use that
knowledge to their own advantage by picking playing fields
where they can win and, within those fields, carefully positioning
their businesses to work with, not against, the forces. (The
Strategist, page 31)

Leading with Purpose and Strategy


Every concept of strategy that has entered the
conversation of business managers sustainable
competitive advantage, positioning, differentiation,
added value, even the firm effect flows from
purpose. (The Strategist, page 49)
This is where The Strategist really excels. It drives
the vital points of defined purpose and whole
strategy.

A purpose needs to be real. Here are four relevant


elements:
A good purpose is ennobling. There needs to be a level of
inspiration; it delivers meaning to the people in the
organization and the work they do.
A good purpose puts a stake in the ground. It defines what
the organization will be and not be. It is about trade-offs.
A good purpose sets you apart; it makes you distinct. It is
not about generic descriptions software company or nonprofit organization. It is what makes the organization
different from others and what may drive innovation and
approach.
Above all, a good purpose sets the stage for value creation
and capture. It must create good economic outcomes.

If your company disappeared today, would the


world be different tomorrow? (The Strategist, page
56)

Six hallmarks of great strategies:


Anchored by a clear and compelling purpose
Add real value
Clear choices
Tailored system of value creation
Meaningful metrics
Passion

Strategies at Apple, Gucci, IKEA


and Masco
Aside from some very challenging questions, the book also gives an excellent
outline of the strategies of a few companies.
To begin with there is a very entertaining outline of a case study on Masco and
its attempts to move the faucet (tap) industry to furniture.
This is followed by two excellent chapters on IKEA.
Chapter 3 gives a wonderful outline of the rise and fall and rise again of Gucci.
De Sole noted that Gucci's traditional high-end leather goods were not selling as
briskly as its seasonal items, so the company implemented a plan to become
"fashion-forward, high quality and good value". This involved reinventing the
design process, promoting a young designer, Tom Ford, and revamping
production, the supply chain, marketing and retail.
The final one is Apple. This too is a concise and interesting outline, the only
problem being that the Apple Story has been told and retold so many times that
it seems to have lost its impact a little.

Interesting Quotes
Having seen hundreds if not thousands of such strategies in their initial
form, what is clear to me is this: Many leaders havent thought about their
own strategies in a very deep way.
A good purpose puts a stake in the ground It says We do X, not Y.
We will be this, not that. Its a commitment.
As we saw with Apple, the strategists work is never done. Achieving
and maintaining strategic momentum is a challenge that confronts an
organization and its leader every day of their entwined existence.
Duplication If you had the recipe, you could make Coca-Cola, for instance,
but you wouldnt be able to duplicate its brand recognition, its supply and
distribution lines, or its pricing.
If you feel your companys strategy is too complex to summarize in one or
two paragraphs, thats likely a sign that the strategy itself is unclear, or
convoluted in some way.
If youre frustrated with your strategy or with your statement, keep at it.
Writing a bad strategy statement is often the necessary prelude to writing a
good one.

THANK YOU