Friday, March 26, 2010

"Deep Dive" Provides a Whirlwind Tour and Toolkit for Business Strategists

The book uses the pearl diver as a metaphor for the
Deep Dive: The Proven Method for Building Strategy, Focusing Your Resources, and Taking Smart Action is an engagingly written,  well-organized and shamelessly self-promoting  business strategy guide by consultant and speaker Rich Horwath.  The book, which also references scholarly publications extensively, is a quick, inexpensive and worthwhile business read.  It explains exactly what strategy is and how to develop and evaluate it.  While it is directed primarily at senior business leaders, it is also valuable for entrepreneurs, department and team leaders, as well as anyone developing their own career strategy.  

Horwath defines business strategy as "the intelligent allocation of limited resources through a unique system of activities to outperform the competition in serving customers."   Competition occurs within  industries, but also within organizations and between individuals.  Even within well-established enterprises, departments and individuals compete for responsibilities, influence and resources.

The book is replete with lists of definitions accompanied by supporting examples and diagrams.  For example, there are two "lenses" of strategy:  Performing activities that are different from those of the competition, and performing similar activities in a different way.   Doing the same thing in the same way, just better, does not yield competitive advantage.  In fact, Horwath uses a biological metaphor to advance a "Principle of Competitive Exclusion", that no two functionally identical competitors can co-exist.

Horwath identifies three disciplines of strategic thinking:
  • Acumen: development of insights through careful research, analysis and thinking
  • Allocation: making the trade-offs necessary to focus limited resources
  • Action:  executing strategy to achieve goals
The book is full of graphical and tabular tools for strategy development and evaluation.  In fact, I purchased the book because it gave clear instructions for developing an activity system map, which is a high-level representation of business strategy.

While the book has an upbeat and engaging tone, it does not minimize the challenge of successful strategy development and implementation.  Not only does it require a lot of disciplined and collaborative work, but it is fraught with pitfalls such as group-think, confirmation bias and the desire to justify sunk costs.

At the end of "Deep Dive", there is, not surprisingly, a mini-chapter on how Horwath stands ready to help further, but this does little to diminish the overall value of the book, which could serve as a prelude to deeper engagement for business leaders and other strategists.

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