Chapter 1 starts by acknowledging that some great strategy gets done – but it’s not all about the gee-whiz successes that make the headlines. For every Google, Ryanair, IKEA and Amazon there are plenty of solid, strongly directed businesses that keep driving forward, staying ahead of competitors, doing well by their customers, giving staff a sound and stable living, and delivering results to investors year after year.
Headlines also make sure we all know about the “Ugly” – the Enrons, Lehmans, Blockbusters and Kodaks that show just how bad strategy failure can be. Then there are cases of systematic idiocy, like the 30-odd low-fare airlines that started up in Europe between 2000 and 2005, only to go belly up after just a few years, or the global shipping industry that ordered many times more vessels up to 2008 than the planet could ever need.
But the “Bad” is far more widespread – if less visible. There are one-off errors that cause temporary reversals, some embarrassment, and destroy cash – Starbucks opening 500 stores it later had to close, Netflix forcing customers to choose between DVD and online movies, and so on. But more hidden, still, than these cases are the majority of businesses that struggle on, year after year, just about managing to hang in there, but continually failing to make progress or achieve what might be possible. (I suspect Finance-driven planning plays a part in this – see the previous post).
So is this a fair reflection of the state of strategic management? If not, tell us about the hidden heroes who do strategy well but are never noticed. What are some great examples of long-term strategy excellence? What are the common causes of failure that competent leaders should never fall for? Do most companies, as I claim, struggle on without ever achieving their potential, or is everyone pretty much delivering all they could?Share