Books on business strategy is lacking. They are most often the work of gurus launch their method and benefit from the effects of mode always short-lived. The book of Philippe Escande is not of them.
It offers a gallery of portraits, those of 70 companies whose strategy is described and analyzed in a few pages. For each of them, a fact sheet summarizes its digit keys, and its strengths and weaknesses. Because forces-weaknesses analysis, proposed for the first time by Albert Humphrey and the Stanford Research Institute in the 1960s, is finally what there is of more permanent in strategic analysis! Even if the book is constructed from the weekly columns published by the author in "Les echos" since 2005 and inspired by the news of the moment.
Before we parade familiar names, Coca-Cola to IBM, Hermes to Apple or Canon of Accor to Vivendi - step Lafarge! -but also Free, Lenovo or Huawei or Olympique Lyonnais!
In this "bestiary", the companies are classified in elephants, the late industrial revolution from the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, which were sometimes not without difficulty, survived the turmoil, lions, developed in the post-war consumer society, and wolves, son of the 1980s and the generation Internet. Add to this menagerie ducks, lame course, which can be drawn at will, and monkeys, sport and entertainment companies.
This colourful ranking first reflects a conviction that I share: cannot understand a company without knowing the history and roots, in short, its DNA. And we see that no magic recipe emerges: can, as many companies have lived, have difficulty in trying to get out of his profession, but may also decline, such as Kodak with classic film, when too long is believed able to defend it.
This panorama shows also changes how all these companies have had to face, with each time risks that all were able to overcome. Each story is different and each strategic choice is the result of a judgment on how the company, with its culture and its resources, can adapt to a world and evolving markets. Some of these choices will lead to failure, because the bet made on the environment will prove wrong, either because the company will not force necessary to run a difficult strategy, or just simply because a competitor better or more malignant empochera implementation.
However, nothing is irremediable: Louis Gerstner succeeds in 1991 to save an IBM very badly in point, crowded a culture of power in a computer world is fragmented. But General Motors continued its slow slide despite all recovery efforts, which have failed to change a culture from another era.
Nothing is played in advance nor: strategies without obvious logic, when they are well executed and rely on motivated and competent teams may very well succeed permanently.
Finally, nothing is definitively acquired: almost all business described, even among those that succeed, had moments of weakness and difficulty. Lucidity, anticipation and reaction speed are critical in these times...
Build a vision of the future
The lesson of the current crisis, that confirm the findings of Philippe Escande, may return to the fundamentals: focus on simple ideas, operate heavy trends of the markets (which are usually quite visible), well appreciate the skills of the company and its ability to change. Then build a vision of the future of the company, starting from the expectations of customers, lively for teams and understandable by the shareholders, and the continue with tenacity, knowing to adjust when necessary, but not at any time be obsessed with the reactions of financial markets. First truths, in sum, but whose implementation is sufficiently difficult that there is still room for consultants, "business schools" and strategy books!
To business leaders who complain sometimes that their strategies are not understood by the media, this book will show that some, at least, very well understood. For others, this book enjoyable reading, written in a style alert and speaking for itself, even if it sometimes succumbs to taste formulas, offer a wide and documented walk in known names, but which is often a very superficial idea. How improve this economic culture that still lacking in too many of our fellow citizens.