Havard Business Review – Essentials (1/6)


“The Essentials” (10 Chapters/246 pages)

For this book review I will point out the messages I found stuck out the most for each chapter read (I discussed “What is Strategy”, “Marketing Myopia” in class therefore they have been skipped)

After an long day of classes at the current business school I am attending I was willing to find a book which would grant me the possibility to consolidate my lessons learned throughout the semester. Along that research I came across the “Harvard Business Review Must Reads Boxed Set” a series of books that they sell as taking “The definitive collection of ideas and best practices for aspiring and experienced leaders alike”. In essence I believe that this collection takes a “best of” compilation of their articles accumulated throughout the years.

Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change

Here C.Christensen and M.Overdort try to establish why so few preeminent companies fail to innovate successfully. They argue that the values, processes and structure that make that company successful are more likely than not causing the organization to fail to innovate. I mostly enjoyed learning that they define an organization values are the standards by which employees set priorities (ex: gross margins, opportunity size) and that most important capabilities are most likely background processes that support investment decisions.

Competing on Analytics

Written by T. Davenport he makes the case that competing on analytics is more important today than ever before because processes are among the last areas of differentiation. Used by many companies such as Amazon.com I did learn that analytics is more than simple statistics but instead a more quant approach to the culture of an organization. I do believe that this approach is increasingly employed as we live in a world of global information but shouldn’t be overused as numbers can reveal only so much.

Managing Oneself

Drucker elaborates on how he believes you can develop an successful career. He argues you should focus on your strengths and only on them and assess yourself every couple of years/months. Pretty simple. Be prepared to seize opportunities linked to your strengths and understand your values and how you perform. It is important to simply know yourself to know where you fit.

What Makes a Leader ?

From famous Psychologist D. Goleman, he states that great leaders have head EI (Emotional Intelligence) which compass of several components (self-awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, social skill). I mostly enjoyed to learn that based on his analysis “true” leaders are motivated for the sake of achievement and love to keep score. In his case he states that empathy is an important trait that is rarely praised and rewarded in an work environment but a key trait for talent retention. Be aware! (I also enjoyed “social skill is friendliness with a purpose”).

Innovation: The Classic Traps

Written from R. Kanter this author lays out common traps companies fall into when tackling them and offer solutions. There are strategy, process, structure, skills mistakes possible when trying to tackle innovation. I enjoyed her comment on not rejecting opportunities that at first glace may appear too small, to not strangle innovation with tight reviews and to not not create two classes of employees (innovators, main stream managers) but more overlapping and communication between these groups and the importance of selecting leaders with strong interpersonal skills (even if they are not experts in the field).

Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail

On the same subject J. Kotter explains us 8 steps we need to effect CHANGE in an organization: Establishing a sense of urgency (50% fail at this!), forming a powerful guiding coalition, creating a vision, communicating the vision (usually underdone), empowering others to act on the vision (and removing obstacles), planning for and creating short-term wins (motivation purpose), consolidating improvements and producing still more change (do not declare victory too fast), institutionalizing new approaches (ex: with succession plans).

The Core Competence of the Corporation

Last but not least C. Prahalad and G. Hamel makes us rethink organizations as having “core competencies” instead of being divided by STU (Strategic Business Units) and argues that companies such as NEC that have successfully understand this notion have had strong success. The authors make us rethink how to leverage and cultivate these attributes and how to avoid some mistakes and make the distinction between core competencies, core products and end products.

I enjoyed reading these chapters and will be looking forward to the main dishe(s)!

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