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Turning Great Strategy into Great Performance

By Michael C. Mankins and Richard Steel, Harvard Business Review, July-August, 2005

Reviewed 22 Jul, 2005

Every so often a great article comes along for those who want to learn more about the Value DisciplineSM. This article gives a number of simple principles on how to make sure that the competitive strategy side of things connects well with execution. It’s the author’s first rule is to keep it simple—Amen!

Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy

By Carl Shapiro and Hal R. Varian, 1999, Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, MA

Reviewed 22 Jul, 2005

This excellent should be read by anyone who is involved in product development, marketing or pricing of information and/or intellectual content. In fact, it should be their bible. The insights in this book will provide the guidance needed to make more profitable decisions and develop a larger competitive footprint in the global information business. The later chapters deal extensively with strategies for setting industry standards.

The Last Word on Power: Executive Re-Invention for Leaders Who Must Make the Impossible Happen

By Tracy Gross, 1996, Doubleday Publishing, New York, NY

Reviewed 22 Jul, 2005

This is a little bit of a “fake it till you make it” book for senior executives. While I do believe in the approach it is both squishy and a bit too self serving—in order to make this work you really need to have a lot of coaching and they say that up front—“after engaging with (us), he created a new context for himself”. My basic belief is that a book should have the answer—if this one does, it is a bit too confounded with self promotion to be useful.

Winning

By Jack and Suzy Welch, 2005, Harper Collins, New York, NY

Reviewed 20 May, 2005

I will admit to being a Jack Welch fan. If you aren’t, don’t waste your time with this book. If you are, go back to any one of his earlier books and your read will be more insightful. While this isn’t a bad book, it lacks the punchy drama that defined his earlier works. Yes, there are many good rules of engagement for handling people, jobs, strategy and the like. The problem is that most of these were in the earlier books and with more passion.

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century

By Thomas L. Friedman, 2005, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, NY

Reviewed 20 May, 2005

OK, I am a really big fan of this Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The New York Times. This book provides further proof that the competitive structure of most markets are a) becoming more global and b) thus becoming much more competitive. While there are lots of esoteric detail and arguably too much detail on technological and internet history, this is a must read for anyone specializing in services as well as software and technology companies.

Platform Leadership: How Intel, Microsoft, and Cisco Drive Industry Innovation

By Annabelle Gawar and Micahel A. Cusumano, 2002 Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA

Reviewed 21 Apr, 2005

As markets get more complex and suppliers are forced to give up control of their offering to a mix of partners and intermediaries, they will increasingly have to rely on communities of collaborators to improve on and evolve that offering. With solid examples from a number of highly successful high technology companies, the authors provide the both the operating principles and the details of accomplishing those communities.

Relevance Lost: The Rise and Fall of Management Accounting

By H. Thomas Johnson and Robert S. Kaplan, 1987, Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, MA

Reviewed 21 Apr, 2005

This seems to be “operational leverage” month with our clients as they discuss how best to deploy their costing systems for a value-based model. This book is the classic that marks the beginning of Activity Based Costing–a better way of allocating fixed costs in the firm. The problem to recognize is, that for the sake of pricing, incremental costs become the best internal measure of costs. When capacity constraints are seen, contribution dollars (not margin) need to be maximized to the point of the constraint (AKA Herbie for you Goldrat fans).

The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization

By Thomas L. Friedman, 2000, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, NY

Reviewed 21 Apr, 2005

While ordering Friedman’s newest book The World is Flat, I realized that his earlier book hadn’t been reviewed, yet it is one we discuss with clients on a weekly basis. If you are wondering why global competition is something that all managers should think about, this is the book to make that realization apparent. This Pulitzer Prize winning writer for the New York Times presents many practical examples of why the internet and global financial communities have changed the face of global competition forever. This book is on my top ten list and is likely to stay there for quite a while.

Rethinking the Sales Force: Redefining Selling to Create and Capture Customer Value

By Neil Rackham and John DeVincentis, 1999, McGraw Hill, New York, NY

Reviewed 24 Mar, 2005

In this extension of Rackham’s original work on SPIN Selling, the authors present a good model for dealing with what we would call price, value and loyal customers. In their model they match each of these buying types with transactional, consultative and enterprise selling. The problem we see is that first, they don’t do a good job defining the specifics of “value” in dealing with customer organizations. Also, they suggest that each approach would be a appropriate for a particular industry. We would disagree with that but do appreciate the depth they add to the sales approaches for the different types of customers.

Managing Channels of Distribution: The Marketing Executive’s Complete Guideby Kenneth Rolnicki, 1998, American Management Association, New York, NY

By Kenneth Rolnicki, 1998, American Management Association, New York, NY

Reviewed 24 Mar, 2005

This is a terrific guide for developing new and evaluating existing distribution systems. While it still doesn’t address the thorny issue of managing difficult distributors in depth it does provide an extensive number of checklists for how to review new and evaluate existing distributors. Readers are cautioned to review the recent supreme court decision that gives manufacturers considerably more latitude in setting end prices in a channel. They should also recognize that there are considerably more opportunities to balance existing power structures with creative and positive approaches. The authors provide an excellent review of the country by country laws which govern channel systems.

The Manufacturer’s Guide to Business Marketing: How small and midsize companies can increase profits with limited resources

By Michael P. Collins, 1995, Michael P. Collins

Reviewed 24 Mar, 2005

To use the words of the author, this book focuses on “three fundamental strategies: 1) focus on improving profit performance not higher sales volume, 2) becoming customer-driven and 3) targeting specific markets and customers with tailored products and services.” #3 certainly sounds like The Value Discipline. This book is a good gut-check for whether or not you are customer driven and provides numerous process check lists for conducting customer interviews, developing competitive intelligence capabilities and how to work with independent sales agents.

The New Law of Demand and Supply: The Revolutionary New Demand Strategy for Faster Growth and Higher Profits

By Rick Kash, 2001, Doubleday, New York, NY

Reviewed 24 Mar, 2005

This book points to the tremendous and devastating loss of pricing power that firms have suffered over the last decade. While value is not well defined and the examples are mostly consumer, they do present an interesting framework for how to become more customer centric and use that centricity to drive innovation into the firm for sustainable competitive advantage. An interesting note is that most of the innovation he points to is services based.

Strategic Supremacy: How Industry Leaders Create Growth, Wealth, and Power Through Spheres of Influence

By Ricard A. D'Aveni, 2001, The Free Press, New York, NY

Reviewed 24 Mar, 2005

The author uses deep knowledge of history and competitive strategy to build his concept of spheres of influence which much be effectively managed in today’s global markets. The problem is that, to a certain extent, he over complicates it. Also, he fails to address how non-leaders should evolve.

Mail and Internet Surveys Second Edition

By Don A. Dillman, 2000, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY

Reviewed 24 Mar, 2005

If you do market research and think that response rates of 5-10% are good, you need to read this book. The focus is primarily on the elements needed to dramatically improve survey response rates to the 50-70% range. Prof. Dillman provides the elements of the “Tailored Response Method” which has been in use for over 20 years. A note: their coverage of Internet-based surveys is over 5 years old–an eon in that business.

The Power of Impossible Thinking: Transform the Business of Your Life and the Life of Your Business

By Yoram Wind and Colin Crook, 2005, Pearson Education, Saddle River, NJ

Reviewed 24 Mar, 2005

Success in business is all about getting organizations and managers to change how they think about their business and it’s problems. We often see managers make a major paradigm shift away from a price-focused to a value-focused business with incredible success. This book is all about challenging the mental models that hold us back from that transition.