February 2, 2017
Book Short – A Smattering of Good Ideas that further my Reboot path
Ram Charan’s The Attacker’s Advantage was not his best work, but it was worth the read. It had a cohesive thesis and a smattering of good ideas in it, but it felt much more like the work of a management consultant than some of his better books like Know How (review, buy), Confronting Reality (review, buy), Execution (review, buy), What the CEO Wants You to Know ( buy), and my favorite of his that I refer people to all the time, The Leadership Pipeline (review, buy).
Charan’s framework for success in a crazy world full of digital and other disruption is this:
Perceptual acuity (I am still not 100% sure what this means)
- A mindset to see opportunity in uncertainty
- The ability to see a new path forward and commit to it
- Adeptness in managing the transition to the new path
- Skill in making the organization steerable and agile
The framework is basically about institutionalizing the ability to spot pending changes in the future landscape based on blips and early trends going on today and then about how to seize opportunity once you’ve spotted the future. I like that theme. It matches what I wrote about when I read Mark Penn’s Microtrends (review, buy) years ago.
Charan’s four points are important, but some of the suggestions for structuring an organization around them are very company-specific, and others are too generic (yes, you have to set clear priorities). His conception of something he calls a Joint Practice Session is a lot like the practices involved in Agile that contemporary startups are more likely to just do in their sleep but which are probably helpful for larger companies.
I read the book over a year ago, and am finally getting around to blogging about it. That time and distance were helpful in distilling my thinking about Charan’s words. Probably my biggest series of takeaways from the book – and they fit into my Reboot theme this quarter/year, is to spend a little more time “flying at higher altitude,” as Charan puts it: talking to people outside the company and asking them what they see and observe from the world around them; reading more and synthesizing takeaways and applicability to work more; expanding my information networks beyond industry and country; creating more routine mechanisms for my team to pool observations about the external landscape and potential impacts on the company; and developing a methodology for reviewing and improving predictions over time.
Bottom line: like many business books, great to skim and pause for a deep dive at interesting sections, but not the author’s best work.