Strategie, de essenties - citaten van Cynthia

In strategie+business, issue 70 2013, wordt HBS-hoogleraar Cynthia Montgomery geïnterviewd over strategie en leiderschap, naar aanleiding van haar boek 'The Strategist. Be the leader your business needs'. Het is een fraai interview, met uitspraken waar we wat mee kunnen en moeten. Daarvan hieronder samenvatting.

The Thought Leader Interview: Cynthia Montgomery

A Harvard Business School strategy professor observes that leaders become better strategists by engaging in conversations about the purpose of a company.


When you look at strategy as a frame of mind to be cultivated, rather than as a plan to be executed, you are far more likely to succeed over the long run.


It’s always surprising to see how the same individuals who are good on their feet and have brilliant things to say when talking about a case study like Nike or GE falter when they’re talking about their own companies. They revert to the same old generics that could apply to any company: “We will succeed because we’re the quality leaders, we’re best in class, we have the lowest costs,” and so on.

For many leaders, there’s an immense gap between intellectually understanding the theory of strategy and being able to apply it in their own businesses.


A strategy shouldn’t be only a document, or an occasional exercise. It should be a way of looking at the world, interpreting experience, and thinking about what a company is and why it matters. The formal strategic planning process is only part of it; the deeper responsibility is ongoing and continuous.


[G]radually strategy became an exercise in getting the analysis right, providing the answer, and letting someone else implement it. Before long, strategy at many top business schools was taught by economists focused on theory and analytics. [T]he economics began to distract people from the leadership aspect of strategy.


There’s a conundrum you sometimes hear in business school: “Would you rather have a brilliant, fully worked-out strategy and poor execution, or a half-baked strategy well executed?” But at root, it’s a vacuous question. How can you implement the hell out of something if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish?


A leader who is a strategist has clarity not only about what’s being done, but why. He or she understands that the quality of execution begins there.


The existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote about the “courage to choose,” and understood that choosing isn’t just an intellectual thing; it takes guts. Strategy books don’t talk about that.

[ Strategy books ] also rarely talk about how to get others involved, or how to serve as a champion of the process.

I also realized how vitally important creativity is in strategy. It takes the whole brain—intuition and analytic skills—to do it well. But creativity isn’t considered very important in the culture that has grown up around strategy.

[ You have to ] create the organizational context where people can bring [ the strategy ] to life.

It’s not in a document on a desk; it’s the energy that gives life to the company.

[ Good strategy is ] an animating idea.


You need to think about your strategy as an open, living thing.


A really good strategy doesn’t happen on the margin; it doesn’t simply perpetuate an industry game that is mature and may be decaying. A really good strategy revitalizes the company, and to do that, you need to assemble a group of people who have the courage to confront business at its roots.

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