Unlock the Secrets Of Strategy
Veteran strategic consultant and professor Tony Grundy is on a mission: to free strategy from the consultants and academics who have laden it down with "conceptual overgrowth." In his new book, Demystifying Strategy: How to Become a Strategic Thinker, Grundy covers the key ideas, vocabulary, and concepts of strategy. He uses real-world examples as well as self-help exercises to illustrate the practical applications of those concepts.
The Story of Dyson
Throughout the book, Grundy covers when appropriate some of the history and foundational concepts of strategy, such as the three C’s first described in Kenichi Ohmae’s classic The Mind of the Strategist and updated in Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad’s seminal book Competing for the Future. Grundy, however, does not linger in the past; a quick review is all that is necessary before he moves on to practical applications. For example, when talking about adding value, which is at the heart of the three-C’s model (the C’s stand for customer, company and competitor), Grundy uses the interesting example of James Dyson, the engineer who revolutionized what many had probably thought was a commodity business: vacuum cleaners.
However, Dyson eliminated what Grundy calls "value destruction" — specifically by eliminating the use of bags in vacuum cleaners. While Dyson has "the mind of the strategist," he has been less successful in "competing for the future" — that is, the Dyson company has not found ways (based on "competencies") to add new value for customers. In the late 1990s, Grundy writes, "Dyson should have been considering its future basis for competing after competitors had imitated the cyclonic technology... and thinking about the future design and brand-based areas of hard-to-imitate customer value and a reduced cost base through offshoring its manufacturing to the Far East. The Dyson product looked very much like blue ocean but self-evidently was fundamentally leaning towards red, or at least pink."
This last comment is interesting because Grundy had spent some time in an earlier chapter dissecting the blue ocean strategy framework, showing that the popular concept of moving into uncontested space, laid out in the bestseller Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, was in many ways a repackaging of past concepts. While Grundy makes some good points, he fails to recognize the contribution of Kim and Mauborgne to the vocabulary of strategy, which is exactly how Grundy himself uses the concept in the quote above.
Exhaustive but Not Exhausting
Grundy’s lack of appreciation for the importance of the Blue Ocean Strategy vocabulary is a bit ironic, since Demystifying Strategy is built on a careful and comprehensive overview of the most common terms and ideas in strategy, enhanced by Grundy’s work and experience. For example, he begins the book with his own three definitions of strategy:
- Strategy is how you get from where you are now to where you want to be — and with real competitive advantage.
- Strategy is what we really, really want. (He calls this the "Spice Girl" definition of strategy.)
- Strategy is the cunning plan (a combination of obvious and less obvious ideas, not easy to imitate and based on working backward from the result).
These definitions set the stage for an entertaining, vastly informative, unique manual on strategy and strategic thinking that is exhaustive but never exhausting.