Harvard’s Cynthia Montgomery Asks: Are You A Strategist?

Photo by Konstantin Lazorkin on flickr.

Cynthia Montgomery’s new book, The Strategist, will challenge you to rethink your approach to business strategy.  For over twenty years Professor Montgomery has taught at Harvard Business School.  For six of those years she led the strategy track at Harvard Business School’s executive program for owner-managers, personally helping business leaders around the world with strategy formation.  Her experience is that rare blend of the academic with the practical, and her new book offers business leaders the benefit of her extensive experience.

Every year, I read numerous business books and can say that this is one that won’t be relegated to a shelf.  It’s a blueprint, a guide to leading your company with greater success.  Nothing is spared, and you will question not only your company strategy but also your personal leadership of the strategic process.  See if you can answer with clarity the following questions:

Are you a strategist?

Why does your company matter?

Are you the leader your business needs?

Is your strategy filled with generic statements and empty clichés?

Do you know where your company is going and why?

After reading the book, I was personally challenged to rethink strategy.  I recently had the opportunity to ask Cynthia about her work and her vast experience in strategy formulation and leadership.

7 Triggers That Can Transform Your Business

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Daniel Burrus is a world renowned business strategist, futurist and technology forecaster.  He is the CEO and founder of Burrus Research, a firm that helps spot trends for clients to take advantage of coming market forces.  His latest book Flash Foresight is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller.

In his book, he outlines seven principles of transformation including:

1. Start with certainty

2. Anticipate

3. Transform

4. Take your biggest problem—and skip it

5. Go opposite

6. Redefine and reinvent

7. Direct your future

You provide seven triggers for users to pursue to create their own flash foresights. What’s the history of the development of these triggers?  Which came first?  Did you end up discarding or merging other potential triggers?

Macaroni and Cheese With a Side of Leadership

The Scene:

The restaurant is buzzing with conversation.  The clinking of glasses and silverware can be heard above the laughter.  Scents of barbeque and aromatic flavors permeate the room.  Enter a man who moves from table to table, quietly filling the water glasses.

Restaurant Attendant (smiling):  “You like the mac and cheese?”

You (eyes wide open): “Are you kidding?  I didn’t even know you could do this with macaroni and cheese!  Fantastic.”


Attendant: “That macaroni is handmade for us by the Martelli family in Tuscany.  Just what we wanted.  The two-year-old Vermont cheddar cheese is caramelized.  We thought the combination was perfect.”

You, thinking, but not saying aloud, “Who is this guy? What type of water boy knows this stuff?”

Attendant, interrupting your thoughts: “Do you want some more bread?  You’re eating the Roadhouse bread, but you may also want to try the Irish Brown Soda bread tonight.”

You: “Is it as good as what we’re eating now?”

Attendant: “Depends on your taste, but it’s good.  We source the oatmeal from the Creedon family, the same family who makes our Irish stone ground oatmeal.  It makes the flavor and texture.  I’ll be right back with some for you to taste.  Oh, and I’d love to give you a taste of our barbeque tonight.”

You (turning to me, shrugging as he leaves):  “Who is THAT?”

Me: “That, my friend, is Ari, the most unusual water boy you will ever meet.  He’s the owner!”

You (feigned choking):  “The owner?!”

It’s true.  Ari Weinzweig is one of the restaurant owners, but he also fills water glasses at the restaurant.  Yes, you read that right.  As a partner in a multi-million dollar conglomerate, he personally walks around filling water glasses in order to stay close to the customers.

Ah, Zingerman’s.

The Five C’s of a Successful Turnaround

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5 C’s to Change Direction

A few weeks ago, I spoke at a Distressed Investing Conference in Florida.  It’s really a turnaround conference designed for professionals focused on fixing troubled companies.  Since I’ve had plenty of crisis management experience in turning around troubled businesses, I was asked to share war stories and strategies.  I also enjoyed the opportunity to network and learn from the 200 industry leaders in attendance.

Here are the five major points I shared:

1. Control.  I’m not a big proponent of top-down, autocratic management systems.  I much prefer an entrepreneurial environment with lots of input and a leader with a persuasive style.  In a crisis, though, it’s often necessary to ramp up the control level and increase the speed of decision making.  I tend to move very fast anyway, and I like to seek opinions and then make a decision and move on.  If you are in trouble, you don’t have the luxury of numerous meetings and extensive analysis.