Jan 14, 2008

Strategy and the Fat Smoker - Book Review

There are only two words I have to describe this book - "Amazingly Insightful"

David Maister blogger and author of such masterpieces like Managing the Professional Services Firm, The Trusted Advisor and First Among Equals, takes a look at why individuals and organizations cannot do what they know should be done.

I was kicked when David's people contacted me to review the book, and when the book arrived in the mail last week, I was engrossed and read it from cover to cover taking small breaks to ruminate and think about it over the weekend.

The metaphor of the "Fat Smoker" is the organization, that needs to change, knows what should be done to change and yet does not change. In a simple, conversational style David Maister brings his key insights to tell us why change in professional services firm is so hard and what needs to be done to make it happen.

That's because, David tells us, that the objective of strategic planning should not be analysis, but resolve. Too many times, in too many organizations - and this holds true not just in professional services firms but in others too - strategy is about saying "this is what we will do" and "these are things we will not do"

The "we will not do" things are tough to imagine and organizations keep losing their focus on it. As an independent consultant I was myself a victim to this thinking. I wondered if I could do blogging consulting, as well as training in traditional HR and Leadership areas and I guess that's where I failed.

Building distinction and differentiation needs to be translated into both the statements. And as David reminds us, it is the leaders of the firms that need to be setting directions by their actions. Any ambiguity is perceived as a negative mark.

He also reminds us that people are of two types, those whose goals are short term and those who prefer a long term view. Then there are people who like to work alone and there are others who prefer to collaborate. Implementing a strategy through a diverse group of such individuals and their different needs can be a huge challenge.

Apart from Strategy, David also covers Client Relationships and Managing and how to tie them up all together.

There are so many gems in this book, that I can't recommend it enough. The part that really resonates with me is chapter 10, why (most) training is useless. I found myself nodding throughout as I read it :-)

If you are a manager, HR and Change leader or corporate Executive who is leading change and wondering why change is so difficult, then read this book. It will tell you what to do - and it can be painful truth. As one of the chapters says: It's not how good you are, it's how much you want it!

Now you can even get the book as a printable ebook. More reviews about the book here and there's a podcast too.