As the title of David Maister’s next book Strategy and the fat smoker suggests, the problem isn’t that we don’t know what to do, it’s that we know and choose to ignore. Based on a series of articles written and published online, Maister’s latest offering promises a dose of “real” strategy: “The real strategy lies not in figuring out what to do, but in devising ways to ensure that, compared to others Let’s really do it. More than everyone knows to do. ” In other words, it’s about implementation, and that’s the focus of the book. Organized into sections related to how organizations should think about strategy, customers (including marketing and sales) and management, Strategy and the Fat Smoker speaks to those who understand that knowing without doing brings little value.
I started by reading the introductory chapters on strategy. Various gems leapt at me, including:
If you really want to be successful (and many people don’t want it enough to make it happen), then you should never settle, never give up, never let go, never just accept what is, even if you are currently performing at a high level. . .
[T]The main result of strategic planning should not be an analytical vision or smart choices, but a superior determination to achieve something.
The best way to approach this reassessment [of the organization’s purpose, mission, vision and values] is to start with a very small inner circle of top management leaders, who can look each other in the eye and ask, “Are these really the decision rules that we as leaders are willing to follow?”
Maister invites readers to dive into any chapter, and after I understood his approach to strategy, I dove into Chapter 17: The Problem with Lawyers. Maister’s preface to this chapter indicates that he originally wrote it to explain “why lawyers and law firms are different from other professions,” but that other consulting and financial services professionals identify with the culture and behavior that Maister attributes to the legal profession. Almost any attorney reading this chapter will recognize that Maister is speaking to us. It highlights four problems that prevent “lawyers from working effectively in a group”:
- problems with confidence;
- difficulties with ideology, values and principles;
- professional detachment; Y
- unusual approaches to decision-making (referring to the propensity of lawyers to attack any idea presented to locate and highlight its weaknesses, with the result that “in a short time, most ideas, no matter who initiates them, will be destroyed, discarded, or postponed for future review. “)
Having identified and explained these peculiarities, Maister asks why lawyers do so well financially if the profession is plagued with these problems, and his answer is proven by the closed approach that companies tend to apply to innovation:
The biggest advantage lawyers have is that they only compete with other lawyers. If everyone else does things equally poorly, and clients and recruits find little variation between companies, even the most egregious behavior won’t lead to competitive disadvantage.
Maister suggests that only customer pressure can force companies to start acting “like companies, delivering seamless service, practice areas that have depth (and not just a collection of individualistic stars), and true cross-border teamwork. “. Having come to understand some of the problems that have thus far been avoided will help companies adapt as customer pressure is applied.
Other chapters of Strategy and Fat Smoker also have application for lawyers and firms. The book does an excellent job of fulfilling its subtitled promise of teaching organizations and individuals to do “the obvious but not easy.” It is readable, practical and revealing.