I didn’t bring much stuff with me to the other Washington (and that in and of itself has been a learning lesson that I don’t need 95% of the stuff I had); this book is one of the things that I did bring. There are books you want to rent (e.g. from the library) and books you want to buy. This is a book you want to buy.
I was lucky enough to meet the author, Pascal Dennis, when he came to Seattle to train myself and colleagues on the Hoshin Kanri strategic planning method. Through the magic of Web2.0, you can read about my impressions on how that went (it went well). I was then fortunate over the next year and a half to begin applying the methodology in real organizational setting, to improve planning and deployment of health information technology. It worked really well (see aforementioned blog for details), but since that training session, I had not gone back and done background reading.
The book takes the reader through the story of a fictional company, Atlas Industries, that manufactures products for the HVAC industry. The narrative takes the company from the brink of sale/commodity producer to one that partners with customers to give them “the gift of healthy and comfortable air.” The journey is told through the lens of Plan-Do-Check-Adjust, with the development of the strategic plan, deployment, monitoring of progress, and improvements along the way.
You could call this a “How-To” for strategic planning, which includes A3 documents for this company that illustrate the points of planning. As I read the book, I asked myself, “where do most people learn about strategic planning in their careers?” The answer to the question based on my experience is that I think it is mostly on the job. This can be a great thing in a company that excels in this activity, but few do, so from this perspective the book is a nice tutorial on how to be a good strategy leader in the organization. For me, this content comes at just the right place and time, because I have had experience being accountable for strategy, and know the challenges that come along with it. Luckily the book confirms a few things I have always thought to be true:
1. Strategy is not analysis, it is the synthesis of analysis and intuition (many problems should be figured out while exercising on the elliptical, going for a walk, or doing the activity that makes you happy).
2. Going to where the work happens is where the facts are (Becoming a leader does not mean leaving day-to-day operations, “The Fallacy of Detachment”)
3. Work should be fun. (I make sure to laugh at least once a day, sometimes to myself. There’s something enjoyable about every work day, always.)