Strategy is not planning, and planning is often antithetical to survival in the modern marketplace of extreme uncertainty, low barriers to entry, disruptive innovations, and information overload.
This is perhaps one of the most important books about Corporate, Organizational, and Product Strategy to come out in years - and the basis of much of the success at TLC Labs, and The Library Corporation.
Being a book discussion group, the first step is to buy, then read the book. We'll get together to discuss it October 21nd. There will be refreshments (wine & cheese);people will be selected to present on various parts of the book. TLC Labs executives will be there to bring their practical insight into how it actually works with anecdotes and process ideas.
Overview of book.
"Many managers have great ideas but lack the strategizing skills to implement them. Using the battle tactics of the 19th-century Prussian army, author Stephen Bungay combines his unique background as a historian and leading business strategist to teach managers how to strategize in the workplace to succeed in their careers and close the gap between plans, action and results. Through engaging narrative and tried-and-true battlefield practices, The Art of Action brings a fresh, entertaining perspective to management, equipping leaders with the tools they need to achieve their goals.
This book is remarkable. The author's breath of reading and research is amazing. Almost every important author or management book of the 20th century is referenced here - in refreshing and often critical candor. From fads like 'Blue Ocean Strategy' to serious works like 'Balance Scorecard' The Art of Action looks at a wide range of material and distills down what works for actually accomplishing something.
However what made this book so significant is the practical advice and implementable ideas. This isn't another ivory tower theory from on high book, but a practical solution that every manager or leader can get results from.
That said it isn't a handbook. More 'how to' should have been included. Illustrations are small. Footnotes are numerous (and without chapter heads). There are no summaries, no easy to read or follow instructions. They exist but thy are not as useful as the author intended. You have to do the work of reading, digesting the material, and thinking through a practical application for your business.
But oh how worthwhile you'll find that process. Of the dozens of books I read annually The Art of Action is one I'll keep at hand, re-read, and use.
Like in war when a business strategy encounters the real world 3 gaps appear (gaps in terms of expected results and reality: outcomes, actions, plans). They are:
1. The knowledge gap - the difference between what we would like to know and what we actually know.
2. The Alignment Gap - the difference between what we want people to do and what they actually do.
3. The Effects Gap - the difference between what we expect our actions to achieve and what they actually achieve.
The Art of Action is about filling those gaps. Stephen Bungay uses the lessons of war and military theorists to figure out how to really create a "learning organization." The mechanical view of workers as learning tasks and slavishly performing them won't work in dynamic situations like war or competitive business environments. People need to know the goals (intentions) of a business and then have the skill sets to proactively and creatively find their own solutions to accomplish them. We provide the strategy, again goals and intentions along with tactical resources but the people think and act independently to accomplish the goals. A tall order however The Art of Action explains how.