Harvard Business Review Press
March 3, 2010
Imagine running a business without a strategy. It would be akin to driving blindfolded, to building a house without a blueprint. Yet just fifty years ago business “plans” were mere extrapolations of the status quo, heedless of the forces that determine the fate of today’s organizations: competitive threats, customer needs, and business costs. The concept of strategy changed all that, paving the way for the creation of the modern corporate world.
In The Lords of Strategy veteran journalist and the editor Walter Kiechel recounts the birth and evolution of strategy – arguably the most influential business paradigm of the past half-century – and the trials and triumphs of the surprising disruptors who invented it. Principal among them were four men – Bruce Henderson, founder of the Boston Consulting Group; Bill Bain, creator of Bain & Company; Fred Gluck, longtime managing director of McKinsey & Company; and Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter – each obsessed with pinpointing how companies achieve competitive advantage over others.
This insider account reveals how the world’s most influential consulting firms came into being, and upends conventional notions of consultants to reveal the industry’s pioneers as “idea junkies”: a new breed of intellectuals who wielded concepts as weapons for fighting business battles. Their relentless efforts to plumb the depths of competition exploded much of the prevailing wisdom, galvanized executives into action, and forced companies to understand themselves as never before.
What unfolds is the story behind the story of what’s happening in today’s economy: why companies believe they must ceaselessly cut costs; why innovation has become crucial to survival; why going private and going offshore have become increasingly tempting alternatives; what role strategy played in the global economic crisis and how it will help shape the future of business.
An important book by one of management’s keenest observers, The Lords of Strategy provides readers with a deeper understanding of the world they compete in, and a sharper eye for what works – and what doesn’t – when forging strategy.
Walter Kiechel, III is the former Editorial Director of Harvard Business Publishing, former Managing Editor at Fortune magazine, and author of Office Hours: A Guide to the Managerial Life. He is based in New York City and Boston.