A. Montgomery is an awarded author, Harvard Business School Professor and Director in boards of two Fortune 500 companies. The content of the book is educated by her experience in running the Harvard’s Entrepreneur, Owner, President Program (EOP). Written with accessible language that uses minimal commercial jargon, the book clearly covers what set out in the contents outline: it explores what are the key responsibilities of a strategist and how to differentiate between strategizing and creating business models. Using approachable case studies such as IKEA, Gucci and Apple, Montgomery concludes the book by sharing an inspiring poem by Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day” (1992) which poses the question
“Tell me, what is it your plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
The aim is clearly outlined at the beginning of chapter 1: “My ultimate goal is not to ‘teach strategy’ but to equip and inspire you to be a strategist, a leader….” (p.5) The book is suitable as a bright read for a business owner, as an introduction to higher management responsibilities or for entrepreneur searching for inspiration while embarking in new ventures. It is not a workbook or a guidebook: it provides limited, but effective, diagrams and a very good FAQ appendix (which reminds of the usefulness of SWOT!).
Key points stressed throughout are
- Leadership and strategy are inseparable (p.12)
- Strategy is more than an aspiration (…) it’s a system of values (p.133)
- Strategy can be a simple motto that translates the key purpose of the company: be unique
- The strategist is not a super-manager: s/he employs a team key people with the correct specialisation and know how
- Communications enables success
During the reading, Montgomery invites her audience to answer many questions, reformulated clearly on the final chapter (p.133)
- What does my organisation bring to the world?
- Does that difference matter?
- Is something about it scarce and difficult to imitate?
- Are we doing today what we need to do in order to matter tomorrow?
The Strategist has the responsibility towards its own firm as well as its own community; the purpose and values it brings and offers must be the most essential moments of considerations. The Strategist is responsible to define what a company is, what it exists to achieve. I recommend this book as a good introduction for Senior Managers to the concepts and mind-set that guide strategizing versus the more customary business planning approach.