The Strategist: Why Business Canvases aren’t enough if you don’t consider value creation

The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business NeedsThe Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs by Cynthia Montgomery

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The value of this book lay in its ability to distill important, insightful points in a digestible format.

In The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs, Montgomery helps you to think about applying and understanding the market forces in your industry. Montgomery also discusses the importance of creating value and defining purpose with her Strategy Wheel. Here is an example Strategy Wheel:

 

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The heart of all this is the purpose; why does your company exist? The book is about taking ownership of the process, and ensuring that your system of value creation is critically linked to your purpose. If organizations want to be more effective, efficient, and have more impactful, then the strategist needs to line things up in that direction. If it isn’t working in favour of your purpose and value, then cut it. The book is about identifying that strategy is about having a compelling purpose for why the organization exists, and ensuring that your organization is squared up to meet it, and push it forward.

From time to time, I see people not owning their behaviour. I also see them not owning their industry and understanding everything about it. The book had good case studies, where you could see people straying outside their red lines. Case Studies are all very well since we can look at them with cold objectivity. With our own business, it becomes less clear and it starts to engage our lizard brain, which is harder to master.

I re-read the Strategy Wheel chapter a few times. The danger with canvasses such as the Business Canvas (or rebadged attempts at it) is that people really don’t always ask themselves about value creation. It is supposed to be a core component of the Business Canvas model but I don’t always see it applied. Perhaps because it is the hardest part? It is easy to tick boxes in a dilettante fashion, and not think more deeply from there. Thinking about strategy and value is hard, and Montgomery argues that you have to move deeper than ticking boxes, and I think that she is right. I prefer the Strategy Wheel since it means you have to focus on your purpose, and I will be using a version for it for my AI for the Executives Masterclass in London in May. Register Here

The book is heavily Porterian, which is not surprising since Montgomery is also at Harvard. It means that people without a business knowledge backgound could understand the impacts in a Porterian fashion, but not necessarily know his theory. I think that makes it applicable and relevant to a wider audience, and that’s a good thing.

The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business NeedsThe Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs

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Let my People go Surfing: Book Review

22155I wanted to share my review of Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard. It’s an excellent and sobering book which is fundamentally about responsibility, integrity, honesty authenticity and vision in leadership and business. Read it, and you’ll change your mind about sustainability and how it should not be a ‘nice to have’ but an essential facet of every business. It is so important to behave ethically and consider the triple bottom line – the profit, planet and people – that makes up a business, and puts ethics at the front-and-centre of every business and every leader.

Let My People Go Surfing is an incredibly visionary book, and it led me to think about living and running a business more sustainably. It is a blueprint for running a business in a world that has more knowledge but less judgement, more degrees and ‘experts’ but less purpose.

Every business owner should read this book, and work towards a sustainable environment through business. Following the disastrous practices of the banking community in the past few decades, MBA courses are sensitive to the ethical and environmental aspects of business and I’m glad I’m progressing through my MBA since it has given me the opportunity to learn about sutainability and how I can do my little bit through my own little business.

Read it, and change your mind about leadership and business. The insights from this book has informed my thinking and I’m glad I read it. I’ll go back to it in the future, I’m sure.

Book Review: Human Resource Management for MBA and Business Masters

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Human Resource Management for MBA and Business Masters
by Iain Henderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book Human Resource Management for MBA and Business Masters students offered an excellent introduction to the study of HRM, and I thoroughly recommend it as a way of cutting through the MBA material on HRM.
If you find the Marchington text on Human Resource Management at work a bit dense, then I’d recommend reading the Henderson book first. MBA students will be familiar with this book, which is a ‘big brother’ to the book by Henderson which I’m reviewing here.
Human Resource Management at Work
Henderson’s book distilled the main points of the debates, and it helped to cut through some of the noise before I attempted to go back and read the Marchington book. In other words, it was good to have the ‘skinny’ first before going back to read the Marchington book.
I am a visual learner and I liked the fact that Henderson’s book had diagrams. There were also some case studies, which are useful for my particular learning style because I could remember the examples.
This book is published by the CIPD and I’m glad to say that they did a good job of making this topic accessible. Thank you to Iain Henderson and the CIPD team.

I’m hoping that this academic knowledge will come in useful for my customers, and also for myself when I look at hiring people again. So there is a practical application to acquiring this knowledge, and I am looking forward to using it in the future.

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Book Review: Grokking Algorithms: An Illustrated Guide For Programmers and Other Curious People

Grokking Algorithms An Illustrated Guide For Programmers and Other Curious PeopleGrokking Algorithms An Illustrated Guide For Programmers and Other Curious People by Aditya Y. Bhargava

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve just finished reading the Manning book called Grokking Algorithms An Illustrated Guide For Programmers and Other Curious People

This is a very readable book, with great diagrams and a very visual style. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand more about algorithms.
This is an excellent book for the budding data scientist who wants to get past the bittiness of learning pieces of open source or proprietary software here and there, and wants to learn what the algorithms actually mean in practice. It’s fairly easy to get away with looking like a real Data Scientist if you know bits of R or Python, I think, but when someone scratches the surface of that vision, it can become very apparent that the whole theory and deeper understanding can be missing. This book will help people to bridge the gap from learning bits here and there, to learning what the algorithms actually mean in practice.
Recommended. I’m expecting to find that people might ‘pinch’ the diagrams but I’d strongly suggest that they contact the author and credit appropriately.
I’d recommend this book, for sure. Enjoy!

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Business Book Review: Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Perhaps a better subtitle might be: ‘Start with Why: how Great leaders inspire others to focus’ and succeed.

Great leaders and organizations are good at seeing what most people can’t see, which is the mindset of having a longer-term vision. Starting with clear focus and *why* is a great start, and presumably shows that you have really thought about it.
People, brands and organisations need to start with WHY give people a way to tell the outside world who they are and what they believe.

As an external consultant, I have found the ‘celery test’ extremely useful when advising customers. Here is Sinek himself, on the topic:

Although the subtitle is about inspiring great leaders to take action, I found that I took the idea of ‘focus’ away from the book. Sometimes, I see organisations acting like a start-up; trying to achieve a breadth and coverage quickly, and hoping that something will stick with customers.

Starting with WHY means that organisations can achieve integrity, because they will have success, and a story to go with success. Organisations, large and small – and even one-man-band consultants – need to think about their megaphone and what they are actually saying to customers.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that customers pay much attention. Instead, they ‘snapshot’ and you only have a small time to get your message across. By keeping your messaging simple, it means that there is less ‘noise’ for confusion.
I recommend you read it – I found it inspirational, and it helped me to get back to my ‘story’, and to think about my customer’s ‘stories’ as well. I read that it was over-long but I liked Sinek’s way of weaving story and ‘relatable’ anecdote with the points he was making. Sometimes I would find something different in the anecdote than his intention, so I was taking my understanding to a different level.

Favourite Quotes

For values or guiding principles to be truly effective they have to be verbs. It’s not “integrity,” it’s “always do the right thing.” It’s not “innovation,” it’s “look at the problem from a different angle.” Articulating our values as verbs gives us a clear idea – we have a clear idea of how to act in any situation.