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How to balance unconventional conviction with prudent judgment

  • Jun 17, 2006
This is one of the volumes in the "Guide to..." series published by Profile Books Ltd. in association with The Economist. In this volume, written by Jeremy Kourdi, the reader is provided with a remarkably comprehensive "guide to effective decision-making" when formulating and then implementing strategy.

At this point in my brief commentary, I think it appropriate to quote a statement by Peter Drucker in an article he wrote for Harvard Business Review (Managing for Business Effectiveness," May-June, 1963) and reprinted in the recently published anthology, Classic Drucker (2006). According to Drucker, "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all." Hence the importance of selecting the correct objectives and setting appropriate priorities before formulating a strategy (or strategies) and tactics to achieve the given objectives. Drucker goes on to observe, "Business enterprise is not a phenomenon of nature but one of society. [Moreover] in a social situation a very small number of events - 10% to 20% at most - account for 90% of all results, whereas the great majority of events account for 10% or less of the results."

Kourdi's aim in this book is to help those who have to make strategic decisions by rigorously examining the decision-making process. "The first part focuses on the forces shaping major decisions, including ideas, developments and potential pitfalls. The second part outlines practical insights and techniques for handling decisions. Some of these ideas are tried and trusted. Others, such as information orientation [pages 71 and 157-160] and reversal theory [pages 74 and 79-84], are recently developed approaches providing valuable techniques and guidance for leaders."

I especially appreciate Kourdi's skill use of mini-case studies which includes a brief analysis in combination with several reader-friendly checklists of key points. For example, "Looking for the emperor's new clothes: Luc Vandevelde and Marks & Spencer. Kourdi identifies the key elements of the approach which Vandevelde took to establish a team capable of managing change and to restore growth and profitability (i.e. closing some continental stores, listening to customers, establishing new brands with aggressive ands focused marketing, identifying talented people, and managing people more effectively) and then suggests which specific lessons which can be learned.

Some of the most valuable material in this book is provided in the final chapter which focuses on leadership. Kourdi outlines the role of leaders "in ensuring that strategic decisions are effectively developed and implemented. It provides a guide to achieving this as well as a summary of the main ideas and themes behind such decision-making." It seems to me eminently appropriate for Kourdi to conclude his book with this focus on leadership which includes but should by no means be limited to senior-level executives. On the contrary, all organizations which achieve and then sustain their success develop and support leaderships at all levels and within all operations throughout the given enterprise.

Here is a brief passage which Kourdi quotes from Daniel C. Dennett's book, How Things Are:

"Making mistakes is the key to making progress...Mistakes are not just golden opportunities for learning; they are, in an important sense, the only opportunity for learning something new...Biological evolution proceeds by a grand, inexorable process of trial and error - and without the errors the trials wouldn't accomplish anything."

He then follows with this brief quotation of George Bernard Shaw:

" The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

These two quotations suggest the need for balancing unconventional conviction with prudent judgment when making decisions, especially when they have serious consequences. Mistakes are inevitable but mistakes which result from having neither unconventional conviction nor prudent judgment are avoidable.

Those who share my high regard for this volume are urged to check out Michael A. Roberto's Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer: Managing for Conflict and Consensus, Michael Hammer's The Agenda: What Every Business Must Do to Dominate the Decade, Lawrence G. Hrebiniak's Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change, Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton `s The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment, and Robert E. Mittelstaedt Jr.'s Will Your Next Mistake Be Fatal? Avoiding the Chain of Mistakes That Can Destroy Your organization.

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About the reviewer
Robert Morris ()
Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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About this book


Tools, tactics and techniques for making effective strategic decisions in business today.

Powerful new forces are reshaping the business world and the role of the manager in making effective strategic decisions is increasingly complex and demanding. This book shows the busy manager how to create and sustain a dynamic, profitable business. It provides decision-making techniques to support effective decisions and evaluates the tools, tactics and techniques for making critical decisions. It outlines solutions to executive problems and to keeping up with the pace of change. Moreover, it contains insights into effective strategic decisions—what worked and why; what failed and why.

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ISBN-10: 1861974590
ISBN-13: 978-1861974594
Author: Jeremy Kourdi
Publisher: Bloomberg Press

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