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The Strategy Paradox

Why Committing to Success Leads to Failure [and What To Do About It]

Michael E. Raynor

Publisher: Currency, 2007 , 303 pages

ISBN: 978-0-385-51622-8

Keywords: Strategy


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A compelling vision. Bold leadership. Decisive action. Unfortunately, these prerequisites of success are almost always the ingredients of failure too. The reason? Managers must make choices with far-reaching consequences today, but must base those choices on assumptions about a future they cannot predict. It is this collision between committment and uncertainty that creates The Strategy Paradox.

Michael E. Raynor, co-author of the best-selling The Innovator's Solution, explains, through vivid examples at major companies like Sony, Microsoft, Vivendi Universal, Johnson & Johnson, and AT&T, that when most companies fail, it is not because of poor planning or execution, but because of bad luck. For example, Sony's plans for the Mini-Disc were carefully thought out, meticulously researched, and flawlessly execute; they failed simply because the market for online music overtook the electronics market in ways no one could have anticipated. And this is the central dilemma of the strategy paradox — any future strategy, even one perfectly executed, may well fail, because the future cannot be predicted.

 So what should companies do? Raynor suggests that the only way to successfully plan for the future is to develop practical strategies based on multiple choices that respond to the different requirements of several possible futures, rather than on single strategic committments. In other words, companies must hedge their bets. He suggests corporations manage the strategic uncertainty in the following way:

  • Anticipate: building scenarios of the future
  • Formulate: creating optimal strategies for each of those futures
  • Accumulate: determining what strategic options are required
  • Operate: managing portfolios of options

Raynor presents a concrete framework for strategic action that allows companies to overcome this dilemma and seize today's opportunities while simultaneously preparing for tomorrow's promise. In the cutthroat world of competitive strategy, this is as close as you can come to getting something for nothing.

Table of Contents:

Toggle Table of Contents

  • Chapter One:What Strategy Paradox?
  • Chapter Two: The Best-Laid Plans
  • Chapter Three: Who Dares Wins... Or Loses
  • Chapter Four: The Limits of Adaptability
  • Chapter Five: The Limits of Forecasting
  • Chapter Six: Its About Time
  • Chapter Seven: Making Choices versus Creating Options
  • Chapter Eight: Strategic Flexibility
  • Chapter Nine: What If...?
  • Chapter Ten: Preparing for the Unpredictable
  • Chapter Eleven: Reinventing Strategy
  • Appendix A: How Diversification Can Create Value
  • Appendix B:Scenarios at Alliant Energy
  • Appendix C: Real Option Values


The Strategy Paradox

by Roland Buresund last modified 2016-03-21 02:58

Rating: **** (Mediocre)

I don't "get" this book. It makes a case for uncertainty in strategic planning (nothing new under the sun), the case for flexibility (sigh) and that the top level strategy should distance itself from the operational aspects (huh?)

In short, a very confused book, which I didn't take home anything from and which made some ludicrous (in my opinion) suggestions.

Save your money and avoid it.

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