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Book Reviews, MBA Insights, Perspective

Strategy Paradox – Frustrating Circles

This book is a direct response to Jim Collins’ Great By Choice and though Raynor offers a bit of insight in the first few chapters, he begins to engage in a very frustrating circular logic that bores me to death! I barely made it through the book due to his inability to be succinct.

This book is good for anyone who thinks they have an unsinkable ship of a plan. Think again. Here are some insights with references to the chapter numbers on the end.

  • The concept of managing uncertainty as a distinct role for senior management is intriguing to me because I have never been apart of a team that considered doing such. A company that is proactive enough to plan for multiple upcoming scenarios of transition is so much further ahead than the company only willing to react to changes. [Paradox Ch. 1]
  • Michael Raynor suggests that when we “accept the strategy paradox we are forced to accept mediocrity,” and I disagree. Sure, the pursuit of success can lead to inalienable failure, however the strategy is a way of thinking prior to enforced action. If a company accepts mediocrity, the attitude of success is lost. I do not believe existence is better than failure. I’d rather fail than merely exist in mediocrity. [Paradox Ch. 1]
  • Manage commitment to the strategy chosen to execute. Keep both the management of commitment and management of uncertainty separate and constant, both proactively assessing environment to pull from the pull of other possible strategies to switch to as necessary. [Paradox Ch. 1]
  • “Some failures are caused by a good strategy and solid execution.” This is a valid point with sufficient evidence to encourage managers to be mindful of how much weight context (connection to Strategy: View From the Top Ch.7) plays in successful outcomes. [Paradox, Ch. 2]
  • Apple is mentioned as the company that has flirted with failure and now dominates the realm of success. The pattern has suggested that when Apple’s offerings misaligned with customer preferences their “fortune fades.” With the present head to head competition Apple faces with Samsung and the consumers’ desires for more capabilities on their phones, I venture that Apple is in line for another dip. The introduction of new capabilities in the technology are introduced too slow. Consumers know more is available and Apple is milking profit margins for as long as possible. This is not a sustainable strategy in this industry with so many companies fighting for the top. [Paradox, Ch. 3]
  • “By the time the need for thoroughgoing change was recognized, it was no longer possible.” Companies lack the foresight to see the need for change before it arrives. According to Raynor, it is impossible for a company to know with any certainty what’s ahead. [Paradox 4]
  • Raynor suggests that forecasting is futile. I do not believe the future is unpredictable. Even though the future is unwritten, the patterns of the present write tomorrow’s story. Though we may not be able to pin point tomorrow’s performance points, we can know based on past data the human behavior that will influence certain decisions instead of others. [Paradox 5]
  • In managing uncertainty, always use defined time frames that seem to be within control. Anything outside of the possible/perceivable vision of those you are working with will be for naught. [Paradox 6]
  • Raynor explained the concept of diversification within strategy as being a strategy with operational risk. Diversification across types of hedges is strategic risk. Distinguishing between the two when managing uncertainty is vital for the overall performance of the company in case of unexpected chaos. [Paradox 7]
  • A commitment to strategic uncertainty involves the avoidance of making commitments in the face of uncertainty, creating strategic options instead that can be either practiced or abandoned at will with low cost. [Paradox 7]
  • Strategic flexibility is largely based in knowing when a decision is worth working or selling. [Paradox 8]

Are there any points that anyone would like me to expand upon? Do you have any reactions to what he’s written from what I’ve gathered here? Share your thoughts!


About Keila Harris

An MBA graduate with an unparalleled ability to keep a team focused on the goal with clear deliverables to produce for specific results. I am a self-starter. I began a nonprofit organization in 2012 called the DBMH Project, Inc. and then authored a book as well. I love the intersection of business and technology and solving problems alongside colleagues dedicated to their work. I like to focus on growth strategies through SMART goals and accountability. I believe power is in the execution of constant learning and open, humble self-improvement. Therefore I read incessantly and expand my network at every opportunity. #PayItForward #SuccessIsTheJourney



  1. Pingback: Faith and Uncertainty « Enjoy the Process - 12/11/2012

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