Book Reviews: Strategic Planning

Featured Book

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant, by W. Chan Kim and Renne Mauborgne. Harvard Business School Press.
You should not have to compete in the red ocean of head-to-head competition; the alternative is to create a new space in the market that will attract new customers. Such a strategy involves value innovation—the cornerstone of blue ocean strategy. Those that seek blue oceans pursue differentiation and low cost simultaneously. The authors studied 150 strategic moves between 1880 and 2000 — not companies or industries — to understand the patterns by which blue oceans are created and high performance is achieved. The authors' aim is to make the formulation and execution of blue ocean strategy as systematic and actionable as traditional competition. The book goes on to examine six principles of blue ocean strategy, discussed from page 21 onward, ending with a brief chapter on sustainability and renewal of blue ocean strategy. As consultants in organization and compensation (Stern & Associates), we were particularly impressed with how this book incisively addresses the HUMAN side of strategy execution.. The authors have written a wonderfully clear and insightful book that sheds a bright light on the alternative to traditional strategy. It is filled with ideas to savor. 252 pp. 2005.

20/20 Foresight, by Hugh Courtney. Harvard Business School Press.
The author argues that the key to making better strategic choices is to understand the level of uncertainty. Courtney describes four levels of uncertainty: 1) a single, clear future; 2) a limited set of possible outcomes; 3) a range of outcomes; and (4) total uncertainty or ambiguity lacking any range. The book offers tools for addressing each type of situation. Identifies five common issues underlying the crafting of strategy and shows how these can be addressed by identifying the proper level of uncertainty. An appendix provides a 17-page toolkit providing five additional, less well known or understood, tools to assist strategic decision-making. Provides highly useful insights for strategic planning. Recommended. 200 pp. 2001.

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant, by W. Chan Kim and Renne Mauborgne. Harvard Business School Press.
You should not have to compete in the red ocean of head-to-head competition; the alternative is to create a new space in the market that will attract new customers. Such a strategy involves value innovation—the cornerstone of blue ocean strategy. Those that seek blue oceans pursue differentiation and low cost simultaneously. The authors studied 150 strategic moves between 1880 and 2000—not companies or industries—to understand the patterns by which blue oceans are created and high performance is achieved. The authors' aim is to make the formulation and execution of blue ocean strategy as systematic and actionable as traditional competition. The book goes on to examine six principles of blue ocean strategy, discussed from page 21 onward, ending with a brief chapter on sustainability and renewal of blue ocean strategy. As consultants in organization and compensation (Stern & Associates), we were particularly impressed with how this book incisively addresses the HUMAN side of strategy execution.. The authors have written a wonderfully clear and insightful book that sheds a bright light on the alternative to traditional strategy. It is filled with ideas to savor. 252 pp. 2005.

Business @ the Speed of Stupid: Building Smart Companies After the Technology Shakeout, by Dan Burke and Alan Morrison. Perseus Books.
In light of the dot.com bust of 2001, the authors examine the fallacies and strategic mistakes companies have made. The book explores the myths generated about information technology and e-commerce and provides specific Ôdo's and don'tsÕ guidelines which are highlighted in tables in each chapter. The book is filled with specific cases, one per chapter. Informative and engrossing. Recommended. 248 pp. 2001.

Business Intelligence Using Smart Techniques: Environmental Scanning Using Text Mining and Competitor Analysis Using Scenarios and Manual Simulation, by Charles Halliman. Information Uncover.
This book tackles a complex and critical subject-how to examine the external environment for opportunities and threats. The focus is on text mining and analysis. The author outlines a fictional company and asks the reader to act as a strategic analyst to retrieve real environmental information related to the business. Discusses, in detail: environmental scanning, text mining, competitor analysis, and scenario and simulation analysis. Shows how to use these techniques to convert real information into business intelligence. Well written and practical. Highly recommended. 224 pp. 2001.

Business Plans Kit for Dummies, by Steven and Peter Jaret. Hungry Minds, Inc.
A very complete, no-nonsense, step-by-step approach to developing a business plan, including many examples and a CD-ROM with forms and resources. Covers common problems, examples, and advice about research, analysis, strategy, and business decisions. Written in a very easy-to-read style. Recommended. 330 pp. 2001.

BusinessThink: Rules for Getting It Right, Now, and No Matter What!, by Dave Marcum and Steve Smith. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Presents an approach for balancing logic and pragmatism with intuition and idealism to make optimal decisions. BusinessThink consists of both a way of framing planning challenges and deciding on a course of action using an eight-rule model. This model transforms what you think about and, ultimately, what you should do--and eliminates distractions of what you could be doing. Once internalized, this process of thinking allows you to lead others in thinking likewise. The approach is results-oriented and reflects how an effective leader thinks. It sets forth a refreshing, cogent, focused method. 2002.

Clausewitz on Strategy: Inspiration and Insight from a Master Strategist, by Tiha von Ghyczy, Bolko von Oetinger and Christopher Bassford. John Wiley & Sons.
From the Boston Consulting Group's Strategy Institute comes this condensation of the seminal theories of Clausewitz, drawn from his masterwork, On War. The contents are primarily passages from Clausewitz's writings, intended as a framework for self-development on understanding conflict and the principles underlying strategic thinking. A fascinating examination of Clausewitz's core concepts, with helpful sidebars, explanations, and references. Recommended. 195 pp. 2001.

Company Analysis: Determining Strategic Capabilities, by Per Jenster and David Hussey, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
This book shows how to conduct an appraisal of an organization's strengths and weakness for purposes of strategic planning that goes beyond the Ôask the managersÕ approach. It tackles the subject in an in-depth, thorough and holistic way, providing a basic framework, evaluative approaches and guidelines, and numerous questionnaires. The major subject areas are: finance; marketing; production; technology and innovation; human resource management, management effectiveness, culture and structure; and information systems. The authors also take a process orientation that cuts across departments or functions, avoiding the trap of thinking that optimizing performance in each part will lead to an optimal performance of the whole. The book also explores benchmarking, comments on reengineering, and examines the value chain approach. Another approach that is explored is core competencies and their related critical success factors and core capabilities, all cutting across the whole organization. A chapter is devoted to conducting an industry analysis. The book concludes with insights about involving managers and drawing all findings together. This is very rare and unique book. Well-written and organized, its potential value is enormous. Very highly recommended. 275 pp. 2001.

Creative Destruction: Why Companies That are Built to Last Underperform the Market and How to Successfully Transform Them, by Richard Foster and Sarah Kaplan. Doubleday.
Shows how continuous change is not enough to sustain leadership; to be at the leading edge an organization must engage in discontinuous change, periodically reinventing itself—creative destruction. Among many topics, the authors explore how creative destruction works, balancing destruction and creation, culture as an obstacle, increasing creation tenfold, leading creative destruction, setting the pace and scale of change, and the ubiquitous nature of the phenomenon. This is a terrific book. 320 pp. 2001.

Digital Darwinism: 7 Breakthrough Business Strategies for Surviving in the Cutthroat Web Economy, by Evan I. Schwartz. Broadway Books, Division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
Presents seven approaches to succeeding on the Internet. These are: build a brand that stands for solving problems; allow prices to fluctuate freely with demand and supply; let affiliate partners market you; create valuable bundles of information and services; sell custom-made products online, then manufacture them; add new value to transactions between buyers and sellers; and integrate digital commerce with absolutely everything. Schwartz uses case illustrations throughout the work. Highly informative. Recommended. 240 pp. 2001.

E-Aligned Enterprise: How to Map and Measure Your Company's Course in the New Economy, by Jac Fitz-enz. AMACOM.
Examines the changes wrought by the e-economy and the implications for companies. Using targeted action plans, real-world examples, checklists, and a scorecard, the author guides business leaders in making pivotal changes in strategy, innovation, customer service and more, in order to adapt and succeed. Keep subjects include: intellectual capital; knowledge management; leadership; building an e-world strategy; innovating and setting the standard; selling and servicing e-customers; e-human capital; the relationship of the organization with its employees; how to become the employer of choice; integrating knowledge management and learning; an aligning strategy with the Web. A very interesting and important book. Highly recommended. 265 pp. 2001

Effective Business Intelligence Systems, by Robert J. Thierauf. Greenwood Press, Inc. (Quorum Books).
Business intelligence systems (BISs) provides decision makers with an understanding of a company's operations so that they can outmaneuver competition. They are a culmination of major system technologies that provide the ability to take a proactive approach to operations. The book examines such systems in detail and shows how to build them. The topics covered are illustrated by real-world applications. The book explores: the creativity that underlies business intelligence (BI); information systems that can be upgraded to effective BISs for assisting decision makers; types of databases; network communications infrastructure; essential elements of an effective BIS operating mode; key steps in implementing BISs; strategic intelligence in corporate planning; significant factors that are related to tactical, operational, and financial intelligence for marketing, manufacturing and accounting; and applications of BISs. Densely packed with information and highly recommended. 370 pp. 2001.

Harnessing the Power of Intelligence, Counterintelligence, & Surprise Eventsby Alain Paul Martin. Executive.org.
Provides a framework and tools for predicting threats and opportunities, analyzing stakeholders, selecting reliable allies and teams, building a culture of intelligence, taking advantage of surprise events, and mining virtual communities. It is based on a study of several major corporations. Filled with guidelines and techniques, the book provides a roadmap for gathering competitive intelligence, information on resources and cases. This is an excellent book that is well organized and highly useful. 247 pp. 2002.

The Innovator's Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth, by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor, Harvard Business School Press.
The book delves into the process of innovation. Taking the view that innovation is predictable and therefore manageable, the book explores the process for creating new growth through new products or services. It concerns making key decisions of what products to develop, customers to focus upon for building the business, maintaining a strong competitive advantage, the best organizational structure for a new venture, and approaches and considerations regarding investment capital acquisition. This is a book deep and rich in thoughtful consideration of major issues facing all organizations in formulating and executing a growth strategy. Highly recommended. 288 pp. 2003.

Invisible Advantage: How Intangibles Are Driving Business Performance, by Jonathan Low and Pam Cohen Kalafut. Perseus Books.
Intangibles are qualities of an organization that are not readily copied by others. Increasingly these intangibles are coming to dominate an "intangibles economy," strategic thinking, and investment decision-making. Twelve intangibles, viewed as primary drivers of value creation, are examined; they are: leadership; strategy execution; communication and transparency; brand equity; reputation; networks and alliances; technology and processes; human capital; workplace organization and culture; innovation; intellectual capital; and adaptability. The challenge is not to understand but utilize these drivers to achieve and maintain an invisible competitive advantage; the last brief section of the book outlines steps to accomplish this aim. A well written book with a very important strategic message. Recommended. 259 pp. 2002.

Leading the Revolution: How to Thrive in Turbulent Times by Making Innovation a Way of Life, by Gary Hamel. Harvard Business School Press.
This book is about making radical innovation an embedded capability. It argues that we leaving the industrial age of incremental, linear progress and entering a Revolutionary Age of radical innovation—the competitive advantage. Best practice is not good enough. The key to new wealth is not knowledge but insight into new opportunities for radical innovation that take the entire business concept as its starting point. At the core of business concept innovation is the capacity to create new wealth-creating strategies. Shows the role of foresight and how to develop the ability to re-imagine an organization's essence of purpose. The new innovation agenda is a combination of age of progress and the age of revolution qualities, e.g., continuous improvement and nonlinear innovation. Shows how shifting the political power to develop strategy is critical to survival; argues that rule busting change can start anywhere. Provides guidelines for leading change from within. Must-reading for top executives. Outstanding. 333 pp. 2002.

Leap! A Revolution in Creative Business Strategy, by Bob Schmetterer, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Drawing on his 30 years in advertising, the author (CEO of one of the world's largest advertising and communications agencies) presents his philosophy and key to success, which centers on bringing creative thinking to business strategy. Schmetterer writes Connect the creative and business worlds, instill the magic of creativity into the very fabric and nature of business itself, and we can create the future. It stands out from other books on creativity for two reasons: (1) it is written with a passion that brings its content to life and (2) it truly shows how companies achieve a creativity-business strategy fusion that leads to success. This work is filled with examples of businesses that used leaps over the gap between strategy and advertising; what happens in this leap is magic. The book is both the story of the author's success in business and a plethora of accounts of creativity applied as creative business ideas. LEAP! is a fast-paced, stirring book that drives home its message with verve! 240 pp. 2003.

Less is More: How Great Companies Use Productivity as a Competitive Tool in Business, by Jason Jennings, Portfolio-Penguin Group.
Jennings' research disclosed that the key to being productive and financial success is focusing on mastering a single big strategic objective. From this strategic focus other objectives can be pursued. Another key to success is keeping a clear distinction between strategy and tactics. The book describes an array of major approaches including: truthfulness and openness; removing executives incapable of helping to achieve objectives; avoiding layoffs (layoffs create more problems than they solve); ensuring every decision has a good business reason; not using financial statements as a basis for leading the business-and many more important insights. A real eye-opener, written with verve. 240 pp. 2003.

Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change, by Lawrence G. Hrebiniak. Wharton School Publishing.
Based on the experiences of managers, this book focuses on the knowledge, skills and capabilities managers need to execute strategy. It presents an integrated approach, presenting and detailing key execution decisions that incorporate central change-management issues. The final chapter shows how to apply the logic, insights, and guidance presented in this work. Of special note: one chapter is devoted to motivation, incentives, and the control process encompassing accountability, responsibility and leadership. Highly recommended. 385 pp. 2005.

Managing for the Short Term: The New Rules for Running a Business in a Day-to-Day World
Based on interviews with thousands of management specialists, the author has discovered how companies successfully zero-in on improving short-term performance, while still balancing these efforts with long-term strategic goals. Essential reading for anyone involved in formulating strategy. 293 pp. 2002.

Managing the Global Supply Chain, by Philip B. Schary. Copenhagen Business School Press, Global Management LLC, Book Service.
Provides a global view of the scope and complexity of supply chain management and reflects recent changes in the concept and environment. It covers concepts, processes, management and strategy.The authors show supply chain management to be central to business strategy. The content reflects new developments in technology and practice. A separate section on management and strategy examines organizational forms and management tools, providing an excellent overview of key concepts. Extensive references. This is a book of highest quality. It offers exceptionally in-depth, rich content, and is extremely well-organized. Very highly recommended. 542 pp. 2001.

The New Venture Adventure: Succeed With Professional Business Planning, by Ueli Looser and Bruno Schapfer. Texere.
This book explores different aspects of the mechanics of a merger, but focuses on how to build the intangibles which ensure success. Written for practitioners, it suggests tools and approaches. The authors point out classic merger pitfalls, gives an overview of the merger process, and spotlights the key elements for success--getting the business strategy right and understanding what needs to be managed on the people side. Primary topics covered include: business strategy integration; managing the planning and implementation process; building a culture that supports the business strategy; structuring the organization; placing people in the right jobs and retaining them; and integrating systems, including information and people management systems. Comprehensive, rich in content, and superbly organized. A great buy! 262 pp. 2002.

The New Law of Demand and Supply: The Revolutionary New Demand Strategy for Faster Growth and Higher Profits, by by Rick Kash. A Currency Book, Doubleday, Division of Random House.
The core message is that companies must focus on demand and be sensitive to segments within markets requiring continuous monitoring of customer preferences. Not only is current, but new or emerging demands need to be known to drive strategy. A six step model is presented consisting of the following major steps: analyze demand forces and industry factors impacting your business; select your most profitable demand segments; build enduring value propositions to differentiate your offers; identify strategies and business systems needed to meet your demand; allocate your resources; and execute your demand strategy, resulting in total organizational alignment and superior execution that trumps competitors. This is an excellent framework for strategic thinking. 255 pp. 2002.

Performance Management: Finding the Missing Pieces (to Close the Intelligence Gap) (SAS Institute Inc.), by Gary Cokins. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Performance management (PM) is the process of managing the execution of an organization's strategy. It integrates many business improvement methodologies (including balanced scorecards, Six Sigma, activity-based management) with technology. It's major functions are: collecting data, and transforming and modeling it into information, and Web reporting it to users. The aim of PM is to make better decisions. PM is about sense-and response balancing, striving for better organizational direction, traction and speed. This book describes the full vision of PM including; strategy maps and balanced scorecards, gathering and use of financial and other data, and integrating PM with core solutions. The book is conceptually broad, technically deep, and highly valuable. 284 pp. 2004.

Play to Win: The Nonprofit Guide to Competitive Strategy, by David La Piana and Michaela Hayes. Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.
La Piana and Hayes discusses collaboration and competition, offer tools and processes for assessing competitive position, and put forth specific competitive strategies for gaining awareness from customers, third-party payers, human resources, media and the public. Their focus is on helping nonprofit organizations develop and employ their unique competitive advantages. This is bound to be one of the best books on strategy for nonprofits. 239 pp. 2005.

Profiting From Uncertainty: How to Succeed No Matter What the Future Brings, by Paul J. H. Schoemaker. The Free Press.
The book offers frameworks and approaches that help companies prepare for uncertain futures, find opportunities within them, and capitalize on them. It is based on a comprehensive approach (using scenario planning, options thinking, dynamic monitoring, and other strategies) employed by organizations that plan for the future. The text is enriched with many examples and excellent diagrams. Loaded with techniques, thoughtful and thought-provoking guidelines, observations, ideas and questions. Very highly recommended. 288 pp. 2002.

Rebuilding the Corporate Genome: Unlocking the Real Value of Your Business, by Johan C. Aurick, Gillis J. Jonk and Robert E. Willen, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
The authors view capabilities like individual genes, which can be combined into a new, more powerful entity (aka, DNA). The book is about strategies for creating a capability-driven organization. This is an emerging trend in organization and strategic thinking that builds companies from the bottom up, focusing on their strongest capabilities and leaving others (e.g., manufacturing, distribution) to other enterprises. In some cases the capability is outsourced; in others it is assigned to a subsidiary. Strategic planning is driven down to the value chain level. The physical, transaction and knowledge value chains are examined in depth, along with such topics as insourcing, interaction costs, disaggregation, and next-generation optimization. Rich in thought-provoking insights. Recommended. 336 pp. 2003.

Reframing Business: When the Map Changes the Landscape, by Richard Normann. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
This challenging book is about how organizations adapt to, and changes, their environment. Filled with insights and new ideas, the book is about re-aligning business frames with value creation, new business patterns, and thought. It explores the business landscape in a context of human mental processes and world views, examining: strategic paradigms; reasons for, and patterns of, business reconfiguration; the opening of new value creation opportunities; the logic of successful organizations; the co-production of value; the role of companies as enablers of co-production; and the role of local areas in a global economy. Processes leading to new definitions of organization and their role in a changed economy are presented, along with discussion of organizational change and leadership. Rich in in-depth, rigorous and challenging thinking. Recommended. 336 pp. 2001

Scenario Planning in Business, by Gill Ringland. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Scenarios have traditionally been focused on planning but are increasing used as tools for examining possible futures, illuminating the drivers of change, and providing a context for making plans. The book's four sections concern: an introduction and outline of the experience of using scenarios; the framework and environment for specific scenario projects and scenario thinking; guidelines for making scenarios work and a collection of action-oriented checklists; and case studies illustrating the scope and value of scenarios. A summary discusses the role of scenarios in strategic management. This is an excellent resource and complements the author's earlier work, "Scenario Planning." 276 pp. 2002.

Seven Steps to a Successful Business Plan, by Al Coke. AMACOM.
This how-to book explains the components of a well-conceived business plan and shows how to unite these into a comprehensive strategy. The text discusses: why traditional models don't work; how to convert goals into practical business behavior; how to create a compelling company story to inspire employees; guidelines for building a business plan in five pages; techniques for developing vision and mission; how to set strategic goals, objectives and tasks, and make them happen; how to focus on the best of six driving forces that affect the business plan; shaping and identifying core values; developing a statement of philosophy; defining corporate culture; building a one-year operational plan; developing an organizational plan; building a resources plan; preparing a contingency plan; and implementing and sustaining the business plan. The book is all-inclusive and well-organized. Highly recommended. 428 pp. 2001.

Strategic Management, Julian Birkinshaw, ed. Edward Elgar Publishing Inc.
This two-volume work covers all critical bodies of literature—favoring serious academic articles in contrasts to popularist articles—and presents an excellent sampling of perspectives, cutting across major streams of thinking. Volume I has three parts: 1) Competitive Strategy—focusing on industrial organizations, micro economics, and Michael Porter's view on the nature of competitive strategy, 2) Resources—based on the premise that companies are bundles of assets and capabilities that, under certain conditions, form a competitive advantage, and 3) Corporate Strategy—about executives' choices regarding their portfolio of businesses and the ways they add value to those businesses. Volume II is also comprised of three parts: 1) Strategic Process, 2) Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Renewal, and 3) Global Strategy. A treasure trove of great articles. 2004.

Strategic Management and Core Competencies: Theory and Application, by Anders Drejer. Greenwood Press, Inc. (Quorum Books).
Argues that the role of strategic management is to serve as a link between environmental forces and the internal system of an organization's competencies. Drejer's aim is to advance the concept of strategy to achieve competitive advantage by means of the competencies of the firm; defining competency-based strategy is central to this book. The book melds four key factors: 1) mission, 2) vision, 3) product-market strategy, and 4) competency-based strategy. Key chapters cover: history and basics of strategic management; nature of, and framework for, a competency-based strategy; new perceptions of competencies; identification and analysis of competencies; and development of competencies. The book offers a new, important perspective on strategic management. 2002.

Strategic Management in the Knowledge Economy: New Approaches and Business Applications, by Marius Leibold, Gilbert Probst and Michael Gibbert, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
The key message of the book is that the new knowledge-networked economy requires a totally different strategic management mindset and toolbox. Each chapter starts with a brief introduction and theoretical overview followed by selected research papers and viewpoints, and concludes with case studies. The book draws most of its key ideas from an open systems perspective of organization and makes three key contributions: 1) systematic (in contrast to analytical) strategic management; 2) business socio-cultural network dynamics (versus the industry or internal value chain perspective); and 3) the concept of systematic (versus traditional balanced) scorecard. Ideal for graduate or executive-level courses. Includes a glossary of major terms. Very highly recommended. 354 pp. 2002.

Strategic Thinking for the Next Economy, by Michael A. Cusumano and Constantinos C. Markides. Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.
This is a collection of outstanding articles on topics selected by the authors and published in a 1999 special issue of the Sloan Management Review, plus additional articles published in the SMR between 1998 and 2001. The articles are on strategy and the strategy-making process. The major sections concern: 1) strategy and value creation in the next economy; 2) flexibility in a volatile world; 3) strategy and strategy-making in times of uncertainty; and 4) strategic innovation and strategies for growth, particularly in fast-paced markets. The book's common theme is that designing successful strategy is a never-ending quest. A common strategic issue is: How can a firm achieve a fit between what it does and what its industry environment require today, while also preparing itself to stretch capabilities an evolve its culture to tackle tomorrow's challenges? Enjoyable and thoughtful reading. Strongly recommended. 317 pp. 2001

Strategy Maps: Converting Intangible Assets Into Tangible Assets, by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton. Harvard Business School Press.
Provides the link between strategy formulation and implementation by offering an in-depth blueprint for describing, measuring, and aligning intangible assets. The book presents strategy maps, dynamic visuals tools that illustrate the causal relationships between strategic objectives, internal processes, human capital, information capital, and organizational capital (culture, leadership, employee alignment, teamwork, and knowledge management). This book is filled with diagrams and a serious, deep treatment of its subject matters. Written by the creators of the Balanced Scorecard. Another winner. 454 pp. 2004.

Strategy Moves: 14 Complete Attack and Defense Strategies for Competitive Advantage, by Jorge A Vasconcellos E Sa. Prentice-Hall/Financial Times.
[Listed on Amazon.com under the title "Strategy Plays"] A clear, detailed, informative explanation of attack and defense strategies. The book provides the most vivid use of military strategy to shed light and insight on effective business strategies. The author is extremely straightforward in presenting his ideas and conclusions. Cuts-to-the-chase; a no-nonsense book that delivers an abundance of substance. If it's military strategy, business strategy or, ideally, the linkages between the two that interest you, you'll appreciate this book. Highly recommended. 212 pp. 2005.

The Ultimate Competitive Advantage: Secrets of Continually Developing a More Profitable Business Model, by Donald Mitchell and Carol Coles. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Having tracked successful companies, the authors realized that these firms are engaged in continual business model innovation, a practice that became dominant in the 1990s. 'Business model' is defined as the who, what, when, where, why, how and how much a company meets customer demand and provides value. The book examines many cases. Numerous guidelines are presented to help focus and strengthen model innovation. A highly stimulating and thought-provoking work. 311 pp. 2003.

The Value Profit Chain: How to Manage Employees Like Customers and Customers Like Employees, by James L. Heskett, Earl W. Sasser and Leonard A. Schlesinger, The Free Press.
The value profit chain is built on a series of interrelated phenomena organized according to the following assumptions: customer loyalty and commitment come from customer satisfaction (compared to competitors) and are the primary drivers of growth and profitability. Customer satisfaction results from high levels of comparative value that is created by satisfied, committed, loyal and productive employees. Employee satisfaction results from many factors. The relationships between these elements of the chain are self-reinforcing. This book presents insights in both customer loyalty and employee commitment. It's content is enhanced with models, questions for management, an audit, a compendium of research, and an example of calculating the lifetime value of a customer. Top-notch thinking and excellent organization of thought. 377 pp. 2003.

Warren Buffett CEO: Secrets From the Berkshire Hathaway Managers, by Robert P. Miles. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Through interviews with operating managers (CEOs of Berkshire Hathaway [BH] owned companies, the author provides insights into their thinking. Chapters are devoted to each interviewee. BH is an investment vehicle created by Warren Buffett; the conglomerate is partly owned by Buffett. The book's main focus is on the CEOs Buffett has brought together and their businesses. The exploration of personalities, philosophies and the BH business model is absorbing. Opening chapters explore how Buffett selects CEOs. The middle chapters (most of the book) feature the managers' views about how Buffett leads and motivates them. A few short final chapters delve into the unique BH methods of evaluation and compensation, the business opportunities of BH, and a look at BH after Buffett. Fascinating reading about a unique organization and leader. 412 pp. 2001.

Why Some Companies Emerge Stronger and Better From A Crisis: 7 Essential Lessons For Surviving Disaster, by Ian Mitroff. AMACOM.
The book presents seven essential challenges all organizations face in today's environment, along with seven essential lessons that are key to successfully facing and overcoming them. The lessons concern: emotional preparedness; creative thinking; spiritual strength; political and social skills; technical skills; integration of areas of knowledge and emotions; and innovation. Mitroff closes his discussion by expanding his thinking to the societal level. The book is filled with penetrating and challenging thought encompassing many perspectives and providing numerous insights. 237 pp. 2005.

Zoom: How 12 Exceptional Companies Are Navigating the Road to the Next Economy, by James M. Critrin. A Currency Book, Doubleday, Division of Random House.
The author poses the question: how does a company win amid the realities of the Next Economy? To answer it, Critrin has identified a cross-section of winning companies, from different industries and at different stages of development to study how they are pursuing innovative and successful strategies. His research revealed six basic principles: live with integrity and lead by example; develop a winning strategy or a big idea; build a great management team; inspire employees; organize for flexibility and responsiveness; and implement reinforcing management systems. He also identified six success factors: go for speed; create a learning organization; obsess the customer; reward appropriate risk-taking and failure; absorb uncertainty; and master deal-making and partnering skills. For each factor he gives ten guidelines for implementation. The core of the book explores these principles and strategies through case studies. An absorbing and informative work. 252 pp. 2002.