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The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World

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Imagine, if you can, the world of business - without corporate strategy. Remarkably, fifty years ago that's the way it was. Businesses made plans, certainly, but without understanding the underlying dynamics of competition, costs, and customers. It was like trying to design a large-scale engineering project without knowing the laws of physics. But in the 1960s, four maveri Imagine, if you can, the world of business - without corporate strategy. Remarkably, fifty years ago that's the way it was. Businesses made plans, certainly, but without understanding the underlying dynamics of competition, costs, and customers. It was like trying to design a large-scale engineering project without knowing the laws of physics. But in the 1960s, four mavericks and their posses instigated a profound shift in thinking that turbocharged business as never before, with implications far beyond what even they imagined. In The Lords of Strategy, renowned business journalist and editor Walter Kiechel tells, for the first time, the story of the four men who invented corporate strategy as we know it and set in motion the modern, multibillion-dollar consulting industry: Bruce Henderson, founder of Boston Consulting Group Bill Bain, creator of Bain & Company Fred Gluck, longtime Managing Director of McKinsey & Company Michael Porter, Harvard Business School professor Providing a window into how to think about strategy today, Kiechel tells their story with novelistic flair. At times inspiring, at times nearly terrifying, this book is a revealing account of how these iconoclasts and the organizations they led revolutionized the way we think about business, changed the very soul of the corporation, and transformed the way we work.


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Imagine, if you can, the world of business - without corporate strategy. Remarkably, fifty years ago that's the way it was. Businesses made plans, certainly, but without understanding the underlying dynamics of competition, costs, and customers. It was like trying to design a large-scale engineering project without knowing the laws of physics. But in the 1960s, four maveri Imagine, if you can, the world of business - without corporate strategy. Remarkably, fifty years ago that's the way it was. Businesses made plans, certainly, but without understanding the underlying dynamics of competition, costs, and customers. It was like trying to design a large-scale engineering project without knowing the laws of physics. But in the 1960s, four mavericks and their posses instigated a profound shift in thinking that turbocharged business as never before, with implications far beyond what even they imagined. In The Lords of Strategy, renowned business journalist and editor Walter Kiechel tells, for the first time, the story of the four men who invented corporate strategy as we know it and set in motion the modern, multibillion-dollar consulting industry: Bruce Henderson, founder of Boston Consulting Group Bill Bain, creator of Bain & Company Fred Gluck, longtime Managing Director of McKinsey & Company Michael Porter, Harvard Business School professor Providing a window into how to think about strategy today, Kiechel tells their story with novelistic flair. At times inspiring, at times nearly terrifying, this book is a revealing account of how these iconoclasts and the organizations they led revolutionized the way we think about business, changed the very soul of the corporation, and transformed the way we work.

30 review for The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mikal

    (note I listened to audiobook not read the book, though I own the hard copy as well) This book provides a good survey on the history of Strategy Consultants. This has strong overlap with the 'History of Strategy' and 'History of the New Corporate World' however it is not about the history and future of strategy. This oversight- is an obvious blemish to an otherwise solid book. In the coda- the author seeks to almost apologize for the obvious oversight: by focusing on consultants he's overlooked al (note I listened to audiobook not read the book, though I own the hard copy as well) This book provides a good survey on the history of Strategy Consultants. This has strong overlap with the 'History of Strategy' and 'History of the New Corporate World' however it is not about the history and future of strategy. This oversight- is an obvious blemish to an otherwise solid book. In the coda- the author seeks to almost apologize for the obvious oversight: by focusing on consultants he's overlooked all those players that are leading corporation with their own flavor of 'strategy' even if its not in its purest form, the CEO. There are two other shortcomings worth noting: First, the complete disregard of more modern management frameworks, such as blue ocean strategy which provides an analytical framework that the author favors. While W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne get two paragraphs of text a whole section is dedicated to business process re-engineering, a footnote in the holistic concept of strategy. Second, the author doesn't cohesively pull together the impact of the thousands of newly minted (strategy trained) MBAs and their impact upon the companies they serve. In stead the author follows McKinsey, Bill Bain and authors through interviews and expansion. In the war to redefine modern business philosophy, Strategy in effect won. But the chapter has yet to write what this truly means-- this book takes too much of a consultant focus. With all that said, it is a valuable book. I was drawn to it to give me a more well rounded perspective of 'The Connected Company' David Gray's book (that I highly recommend). With this context its clear that the emergent approach to strategy (people as the valuable asset) flows from the Tom Peters school of thought and sadly is equally fuzy on the details (or as Porter might say "too stylized"). This book has value. It is a solid contribution to the philosophy of business, even if it is 50-100 pages longer than its value. Perhaps under a different title "the rise of the consultant" this is even a four star book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    I had to abort at p. 32. (I also read the last chapter, "And Where Was Strategy When the Global Financial System Collapsed?" and the Coda.) This was disappointing. I was hoping for something along the lines of Dangerous Company: The Consulting Powerhouses and the Businesses They Save and Ruin, which was vibrant and really pulled the reader in. I do want to read an engrossing and well-written history of corporate strategy-making, but this isn't it. Kiechel's writing style is either bland and life I had to abort at p. 32. (I also read the last chapter, "And Where Was Strategy When the Global Financial System Collapsed?" and the Coda.) This was disappointing. I was hoping for something along the lines of Dangerous Company: The Consulting Powerhouses and the Businesses They Save and Ruin, which was vibrant and really pulled the reader in. I do want to read an engrossing and well-written history of corporate strategy-making, but this isn't it. Kiechel's writing style is either bland and lifeless, or bizarrely metaphorical: "Old man corporate river, he just keeps rolling along. But storm clouds were beginning to gather over the lotus-eaters' company picnic."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Way

    What a fascinating, revealing, and difficult text. It details the rise of strategy firms (and their consultants) in the 1960s, intellectual business powerhouses who drove companies to begin thinking carefully about market share, positioning, customer needs, costs, and much more through a fiercely analytical and theoretical framework: "strategy". Whatever that means changed through the years, and helped in large part to accelerate the so-called gears of capitalism to an exceedingly rapid pace. Det What a fascinating, revealing, and difficult text. It details the rise of strategy firms (and their consultants) in the 1960s, intellectual business powerhouses who drove companies to begin thinking carefully about market share, positioning, customer needs, costs, and much more through a fiercely analytical and theoretical framework: "strategy". Whatever that means changed through the years, and helped in large part to accelerate the so-called gears of capitalism to an exceedingly rapid pace. Detailing the Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, McKinsey, and literally dozens of other business strategists and thinkers, this book gave a really comprehensive and cohesive history that I don't think you'd be able to find easily anywhere else. It ends on a frustrating but hopeful note, with the idea that we don't know where strategy will go except that it will focus on people, their skills and awareness, and that the free market is only moving faster and getting more complex. I vomited in my mouth a little bit thinking about intergalactic (or even interplanetary) commerce. Not that the book mentions that anywhere. Overall, it's a dense but really, really interesting read. If you're interested in business strategy, entrepreneurship, and/or microeconomics, give it a read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sumit Singla

    Normally, history books are dull, insipid and uninspiring. However, Walter Kiechel manages to make this book read like a fast-paced drama. He provides insights into the words and phrases we throw around with gay abandon - core competencies, the BCG matrix, value chains etc. He talks about when and how these were conceived, and how strategy consulting firms constantly engaged in a race to outdo each other. The author dispassionately narrates the 'story' - without taking sides, and without getting Normally, history books are dull, insipid and uninspiring. However, Walter Kiechel manages to make this book read like a fast-paced drama. He provides insights into the words and phrases we throw around with gay abandon - core competencies, the BCG matrix, value chains etc. He talks about when and how these were conceived, and how strategy consulting firms constantly engaged in a race to outdo each other. The author dispassionately narrates the 'story' - without taking sides, and without getting overwhelmed by the subject matter, or without spewing vitriol towards the much-maligned profession of consulting. He explains the approaches of stalwarts like Bain, Gluck and Porter, and how they helped shape the consulting space. What I really liked about this book is that it is not aimed at CxO-level people. Even as a comparatively new entrant to consulting (or even as an outsider), you can learn much about the consulting evolution. This book is definitely going to stay on my list of business must-reads for a long time to come.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ameya Joshi

    This is the ideal kind of book to read as a student if they would use it for a course on Strategy - to read gradually over a period of a term, to make notes from, to arrange the key points in your mind and prep for an exam - because only then will you retain stuff from it. I fear to read it now out of curiosity though is just an exercise in information overload. It has lots and lots of information which a lot of my b-school professors would have filed under the 'nice-to-know' category for . Unde This is the ideal kind of book to read as a student if they would use it for a course on Strategy - to read gradually over a period of a term, to make notes from, to arrange the key points in your mind and prep for an exam - because only then will you retain stuff from it. I fear to read it now out of curiosity though is just an exercise in information overload. It has lots and lots of information which a lot of my b-school professors would have filed under the 'nice-to-know' category for . Under the 'need-to-know', I'm not sure if there's enough for a book which quite frankly takes a lot of time to read. Which is a pity really because it is a very well researched history book written by a journalist who's covered the domain for 30+ years and clearly understands the industry and it's people very well. What you get is a detailed historical journey about the evolution of strategy, the movers and shakers with specific companies in focus (now you know how a Bain is different from a BCG and a McKinsey), the key frameworks and models which pushed the boundaries along - how they became popular, fell from grace and came full circle to become the toast of town again. If there's one thing I learnt - what one thinks of as 'passing fads' in the corporate world may be necessary steps in the evolution journey. So as a regular vanilla reader - an interesting lesson which you will probably forget a lot from and come back to refer to the book when you need more details. Ideal for cocktail conversations perhaps. For the more dedicated ones, this is a veritable treasure trove - if you can spare the time and wade through the operose prose.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Raphael de Ocampo

    The Lords of Strategy presents a history of management consultancy, through the lens of the “Big Three” consultancy firms. This book is a humbling tome. The amount of genius, willpower, and interpersonal skills necessary to succeed in the industry -and perhaps in life- is staggering. The book discusses how certain firms developed their advantages, how certain individuals leveraged their knowledge and credibility into great fortunes, and how Greater Taylorism (loosely simplified into management s The Lords of Strategy presents a history of management consultancy, through the lens of the “Big Three” consultancy firms. This book is a humbling tome. The amount of genius, willpower, and interpersonal skills necessary to succeed in the industry -and perhaps in life- is staggering. The book discusses how certain firms developed their advantages, how certain individuals leveraged their knowledge and credibility into great fortunes, and how Greater Taylorism (loosely simplified into management science) will make or break your career. 5/5

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul Dylan

    An interesting take on what constitutes "strategy" and how it unfolded with MBB and Harvard professors. However, a lot of the ideas started to sound recycled fast. Eventually, the concepts seemed a lot like common restructuring practices or the Toyota Way thrown in at different angles, which in themselves are also overused buzzwords in today's setting. Ford, or Toyota, however did not "do strategy", which casts the role of a strategy consultant as questionable. It was useful to learn about how f An interesting take on what constitutes "strategy" and how it unfolded with MBB and Harvard professors. However, a lot of the ideas started to sound recycled fast. Eventually, the concepts seemed a lot like common restructuring practices or the Toyota Way thrown in at different angles, which in themselves are also overused buzzwords in today's setting. Ford, or Toyota, however did not "do strategy", which casts the role of a strategy consultant as questionable. It was useful to learn about how frameworks might limit one's view of things.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andrew K.

    I have a secret yearning to read great business history books -- they are rather hard to find -- and this is definitely one of the great ones. Anyone who gets their MBA these days is indoctrinated into the cult of "strategy" -- the idea that any self-respecting business has a strategy, a mutually-reinforcing set of processes, practices, and capabilities that are designed to give it above-average performance. It turns out -- and this is something I didn't actually realize while going through busi I have a secret yearning to read great business history books -- they are rather hard to find -- and this is definitely one of the great ones. Anyone who gets their MBA these days is indoctrinated into the cult of "strategy" -- the idea that any self-respecting business has a strategy, a mutually-reinforcing set of processes, practices, and capabilities that are designed to give it above-average performance. It turns out -- and this is something I didn't actually realize while going through business school -- that strategy is a relatively recent invention. Up until the 1960s or so, companies could be just fine doing what they did and trying to do it better. But in the current age of hyper-competition, that is insufficient. The book describes both the history of the idea as well as its top practitioners, and none comes across as impressively as Michael Porter. His ability to create super-famous frameworks and ideas is pretty incredible. Note to self: Worth reading again.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Fred Cheyunski

    Valuable on Objective and Personal Levels - I found Kiechel's "The Lords of Strategy" revealing and useful on a number of levels. From an objective level, the book provides an overview of the strategy consulting field's evolution, current status, and suggests its future direction. On a more personal level the book provides those of us who have been in this field with a context and way to situate ourselves within the "intellectual history" the author presents. As mentioned in the initial chapter, Valuable on Objective and Personal Levels - I found Kiechel's "The Lords of Strategy" revealing and useful on a number of levels. From an objective level, the book provides an overview of the strategy consulting field's evolution, current status, and suggests its future direction. On a more personal level the book provides those of us who have been in this field with a context and way to situate ourselves within the "intellectual history" the author presents. As mentioned in the initial chapter, the book can be seen in terms of the "3 P's" covering three historical eras that seem to characterize the ways in which consultants have helped companies define their direction and set their course. "Positioning," that is, determining where a business stands relative to its competitors, dominated strategy consulting's origins and early years from the 1960's to the 1980's (see chapters 2 through 7). "Processes," that is, the practices and procedures that a business uses to get things done, came to the forefront from the late 1980's to today (see particularly chapters 8 through 12). And finally, "People," that is human capabilities and resources, a dimension more nebulous and neglected, where its emphasis will purportedly be increasingly placed going forward (see particularly chapters 13 to 16 and the "Coda"). Laying out the book's organization in the manner indicated above is somewhat misleading in that these and other themes ebb and flow throughout the various chapters. For example, industry deregulation, new technologies, capital markets, and globalization are dealt at various points as they became business challenges. Greater Taylorism (e.g. the drive for overall efficiency and effectiveness), the fiercening of capitalism, and the intellectualization of business are dealt with throughout. In addition to the "major players" at consulting firms like Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Bain & Company and McKinsey, renowned "names" abound such as Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, Michael Porter, James Champy and Michael Hammer, C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hammel, and Clay Christensen. Among the highlights and the "lowlights" for this reviewer are the chapters on "Loading the Matrix" and "The Human Stain." The former chapter describes the BCG's introduction of the four box or 2x2 matrix (i.e. growth/market share) in the late 1960's; it conveys the matrix's enthusiastic reception and widespread use by executives and consultants since due to its "visual punch" and its ability to summarize data and convey conclusions quickly. In the later chapter, the author deals with way people aspects of strategy began to be addressed, e.g. March and Simon, Peters and Waterman. While this treatment makes sense in terms of the book's content, it was disheartening (though not surprising) to read that more applied behavioral science advances have not been recognized and incorporated in the field. As one who "has been in the business" and a management school graduate, the author's account provides for some personal positioning. For a Vanderbilt alumnus it was gratifying to see mention of Igor Ansoff, author of "Corporate Strategy" and the management school founding dean as well as "lords of strategy" Bruce Henderson (BCG) and Bill Bain who had early affiliations. Having been associated with firms and different companies (e.g. CSC and IBM) mentioned in the book, it was good to see the part various groups have played with respect to major strategy consulting ideas, their application and results. If you have similar background or want to get more familiar with this "secret" or less well known/understood history of the corporate world, this book is entertaining, well written, and deserves your consideration.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Abhishek Anbazhagan

    Walter Kiechel III does a splendid job of chronicling the rise of "Strategy" and the three major firms that were responsible for it - McKinsey: Started by James O McKinsey, An accountant by education BCG: Started by Bruce Henderson, Dropped out of Harvard 90 days before graduation Bain: Started by Bill Bain, a former BCG employee, Does not have a degree in Business or Engineering This is a lovely piece of non-fiction that will entertain those interested in the field of strategy and looking to go to Walter Kiechel III does a splendid job of chronicling the rise of "Strategy" and the three major firms that were responsible for it - McKinsey: Started by James O McKinsey, An accountant by education BCG: Started by Bruce Henderson, Dropped out of Harvard 90 days before graduation Bain: Started by Bill Bain, a former BCG employee, Does not have a degree in Business or Engineering This is a lovely piece of non-fiction that will entertain those interested in the field of strategy and looking to go to work in Consulting. The subtle wit Mr. Keichel espouses when talking about the men and the companies behind the strategy movement makes it a pleasure to read. Bruce Henderson is a particularly colorful character- from writing notorious ads in the Harvard Crimson suggesting that only top 10% of the class apply for jobs at BCG to giving Bill Bain his interview evaluation right after his board was not in favor of hiring Bill, this man was a force to be reckoned with in the Consulting world of that era. While Henderson was driven by intellectual curiosity to solve problems, Bill Bain was a man of purpose, he wanted to see things through, to see results and this eventually lead to him decamping from BCG with a entire team to start Bain & Company. Mckinsey's relentless pursuit in being at the forefront of thought leadership eventually helped them breakaway from the other two novel upstarts and stay on the top. The book also does a brilliant job of going through the evolution of different phases of strategy , from the position school of Bruce Henderson through the experience curves, notorious matrices and eventually the Blue oceans discovered by INSEAD professors W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne. I particular liked Keichel remarking upon how strategy had thus far ignored people in their equations and the next era of strategy consulting is likely to be lead with a focus on people in the midst strategy than just merely numbers.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Arun Solanky

    Stylistically a bit challenged, but a really great survey of a very interesting topic. Kiechel really loves going in for the "antediluvian" vocabulary, and his sentences tend to run quite long - the book really would have benefitted from some more aggressive editing. On the other hand, maybe it's a hard read because he doesn't shy away from getting in the weeds and engaging with the details of corporate strategy, and it's clear he has a real interest and command of the subject material. The info Stylistically a bit challenged, but a really great survey of a very interesting topic. Kiechel really loves going in for the "antediluvian" vocabulary, and his sentences tend to run quite long - the book really would have benefitted from some more aggressive editing. On the other hand, maybe it's a hard read because he doesn't shy away from getting in the weeds and engaging with the details of corporate strategy, and it's clear he has a real interest and command of the subject material. The information is really fascinating, and any student of strategy or strategy consultant will be interested. Another challenge with the book is the structure - Kiechel *sort of* uses Bruce Henderson as the "protagonist", but there's nearly 15 different "Lords of Strategy," many of whom only show up in a single chapter and then become irrelevant. This also creates some pacing/structure issues - Kiechel will spend 5 pages getting into the gory details of the birth of LBO analysis, and then bounce back to interpersonal drama in the Bain C-Suite. The combination is a mix of biography and strategic theory which is, at times, riveting, and at other times jarring. All in all, I think the content of this book is fantastic and very enlightening, so I'm very happy I read it. I just think it could have been packaged a tad better.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tony Poerio

    Not just a history. And not a hagiography. This book gives an excellent & concise overview of the contemporary business landscape as a whole: its structure, its motivations, its warts, and how we got there. In closing, the author suggests a path forward different than the one we're on, and posits that Strategy (with a capital 's') may once again adapt and lead the way. Caveats: Probably nothing new if you're already well versed in the area, or a working management consultant. But peels back the cu Not just a history. And not a hagiography. This book gives an excellent & concise overview of the contemporary business landscape as a whole: its structure, its motivations, its warts, and how we got there. In closing, the author suggests a path forward different than the one we're on, and posits that Strategy (with a capital 's') may once again adapt and lead the way. Caveats: Probably nothing new if you're already well versed in the area, or a working management consultant. But peels back the curtains, for the un-initiated, and allows a clearer view of the complex social machinery operating the world around us. (Vis-à-vis: the strategy firms whispering in Sr. Management's ear and driving capitalism's 'thought leaders' steadily forward.) Excellent read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    As someone who appreciates intellectual history related to business culture [1], I found this to be an intriguing and worthwhile book, and written with a good degree of humility from someone who has spent plenty of time talking with people involved in the strategy revolution and having a strong groundwork in the business context of strategy consultants. It is a shame that many people think of this book as something that is likely to be too harsh and too damaging to the reputation or honor of str As someone who appreciates intellectual history related to business culture [1], I found this to be an intriguing and worthwhile book, and written with a good degree of humility from someone who has spent plenty of time talking with people involved in the strategy revolution and having a strong groundwork in the business context of strategy consultants. It is a shame that many people think of this book as something that is likely to be too harsh and too damaging to the reputation or honor of strategy firms, as this book offers some correctives to the excesses of shareholder capitalism but represents a fair-minded and largely positive view of the complexities of strategy as it was undertaken by the leading lights among management consultants and their academic boosters. The result is a book that is notable both in terms of its intellectual heft as well as its historical value, and is the sort of book that is a slow burn, amusing its readers who approach it with a sense of cynicism and then surprising the reader (or listener) with thought provoking insights that remind us of the sorts of massive cultural changes that are needed to make business just and also successful. For the most part, the author approaches this subject in a chronological fashion, looking first at the origins of the strategic revolution in the people responsible at Boston Financial Group (later BFG): Bruce Henderson, Bill Bain of Bain & Company (whose story includes a cameo appearance by one Mitt Romney), and McKinsey & Company[s Fred Gluck, along with longtime Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter. The author examines their own biographical stories, along with that of other people, as well as the histories of the companies and institutions they served as well as the companies who were helped, and manages to discuss academic disciplines like Organizational Studies and finance alongside the intellectual remnants of decades of books on strategy filled with all kinds of hype and best-selling books that offered to help managers and executives get a grip of matters like competitive threats, customer needs, and business costs. The result is something that is as entertaining as the intellectual history of fad diets, which is what many of these strategic approaches most resemble, combined with a scary real-world influence on history and the course of civilizations in our contemporary world. It is this combination between the ephemeral and the vitally important that makes this such a notable and worthwhile book of intellectual history, even if there are ways that the author acknowledges that he failed to cover the entirety of the intellectual domain he wrote about, specifically omitting a discussion of the corporate planners who are nearly invisible in this book except as a foil to strategy consultants. There are a few areas of this book that give a lasting feeling of deep unease. For one, the rise of strategic thought within business came with a certain degree of intellectual baggage from areas of military strategy [2], where competition was viewed as a matter of life and death, giving it a degree of seriousness. For another, strategic thinking, up to this day, has greatly valued what could be easily measured, accounted for, and controlled in a vein of "greater Taylorism," and has subsequently disregarded areas of human factors, despite their obvious importance. For another, the rapid spread of strategic consulting within the United States and abroad has occurred during a time of increasing decline for the businesses of the United States even as a fierce and mean capitalism, in the author's terms, has increasingly spread around the world. On top of this, strategic thought has tended to be rapidly commoditized at its basic levels even as the essential aspects of business strategy have proved immensely difficult to implement because of the difficulty many companies have in either changing their culture or valuing the well-being and interests of customers and employees. The book manages to be intensely critical of many aspects of contemporary business culture while also aware of the immense and difficult constraints that executives and consultants are under as they attempt to succeed and innovate. The author leaves the reader or listener with the hope that to do right by others will be the right thing with regards to the longevity and profitability and reputation of companies, but that remains a hope that is seldom put into practice in companies that are egalitarian and just in their dealings. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... [2] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Smort

    A very interesting survey of the historical development of business strategy. The language was sometimes overwrought (the word choice was, in moments, obscure to the point of pedantic, in my opinion), and the style seemed to vary from chapter to chapter (the playfulness or familiarity of the tone might spike and fall considerably from one chapter to the next). I also would have enjoyed peering a bit deeper into the lives of these "lords of strategy", getting to know who they were on a human leve A very interesting survey of the historical development of business strategy. The language was sometimes overwrought (the word choice was, in moments, obscure to the point of pedantic, in my opinion), and the style seemed to vary from chapter to chapter (the playfulness or familiarity of the tone might spike and fall considerably from one chapter to the next). I also would have enjoyed peering a bit deeper into the lives of these "lords of strategy", getting to know who they were on a human level rather than purely their place in economic history. That being said, this book is a worthy read for anyone with interest in strategy consulting and business strategy, generally.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Docking half a point off the Kindle version because several figures were not included, just a note to check the hard copy edition. Overall a very interesting book and a good companion to The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business, providing a much broader view of the evolution and dissemination of corporate strategy in the form of fleets of highly paid consultants. Highly recommend if you're interested in any of those elements. Docking half a point off the Kindle version because several figures were not included, just a note to check the hard copy edition. Overall a very interesting book and a good companion to The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business, providing a much broader view of the evolution and dissemination of corporate strategy in the form of fleets of highly paid consultants. Highly recommend if you're interested in any of those elements.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Say what you will about the current state of corporate/shareholder capitalism, this is a well told history of the mythical notion of "strategy" in business. Through published work, personal interviews, and business history, we trace a well-connected coevolution of the notion strategy itself (plus its forceful business imperatives), the firms who promote it, the organizations who buy it, and the academic institutions and individuals who extend it. Yes: intellectual, slightly skeptical, and dry... Say what you will about the current state of corporate/shareholder capitalism, this is a well told history of the mythical notion of "strategy" in business. Through published work, personal interviews, and business history, we trace a well-connected coevolution of the notion strategy itself (plus its forceful business imperatives), the firms who promote it, the organizations who buy it, and the academic institutions and individuals who extend it. Yes: intellectual, slightly skeptical, and dry... yet lively enough for a solid read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    Who knew a book about the history of consulting could be so entertaining? Lords of Strategy has great writing with lots of character. I felt like I got a really good sense of the personalities of key players like Bruce Henderson of BCG. Not dry at all. One star off because of the inaccessible vocabulary; I had to look up words in a dictionary every few pages. Feels fairy balanced. Calls out consulting’s missteps and questionable incentives but also compliments consulting’s genuine contribution to Who knew a book about the history of consulting could be so entertaining? Lords of Strategy has great writing with lots of character. I felt like I got a really good sense of the personalities of key players like Bruce Henderson of BCG. Not dry at all. One star off because of the inaccessible vocabulary; I had to look up words in a dictionary every few pages. Feels fairy balanced. Calls out consulting’s missteps and questionable incentives but also compliments consulting’s genuine contribution to the practice of management.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Scott Wozniak

    This is a history of the idea of business strategy and the consulting firms that both invented the idea and rode that wave to build their empires. If you're a consultant or CEO of a large company, then you will find this book interesting as it walks through all the major ways that companies have approached strategy. But it's very specific and tactical, so the very thing that makes it useful for leaders like that would make it boring for people who aren't wrestling with those problems. For me, it This is a history of the idea of business strategy and the consulting firms that both invented the idea and rode that wave to build their empires. If you're a consultant or CEO of a large company, then you will find this book interesting as it walks through all the major ways that companies have approached strategy. But it's very specific and tactical, so the very thing that makes it useful for leaders like that would make it boring for people who aren't wrestling with those problems. For me, it was a great read. It's very well written. It's just very niche content.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nam KK

    As a journalist for Forbes, Walter Kiechel III covered strategies of major companies. The book "The Lords of Strategy" is his account of the history of strategy, as a business practice in consulting houses, as how academics pushed the knowledge within the field, and as how firms adaptively applied it. I can see how companies viewed and changed their approaches towards 3Cs (costs, customers, and competition) over the past fifty years with major milestone (experience curve, growth share matrix, fi As a journalist for Forbes, Walter Kiechel III covered strategies of major companies. The book "The Lords of Strategy" is his account of the history of strategy, as a business practice in consulting houses, as how academics pushed the knowledge within the field, and as how firms adaptively applied it. I can see how companies viewed and changed their approaches towards 3Cs (costs, customers, and competition) over the past fifty years with major milestone (experience curve, growth share matrix, five forces, etc.). This is a great book for a student of strategy. Very worth reading.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Harsh

    The book starts strongly and is a engaging read on the evolution and impact of strategy in the business world. I was able to relate to plenty of frameworks that are still valid and applicable in industry. Although I felt that the author discussed a lot about consulting and not enough about implementers (acknowledged in the book as well). The references in the book maybe a good start for someone chasing more detail.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Virgilio Costa

    " In the firm’s early years, a tally of each consultant's “billability.” the percentage of the person’s ume billed out to clients, was posted every month on the back of a door of a coat closet that everyone could visit. all the better to compare your percentage with others’. Consultants in charge of client engagements would pick the people they wanted to staff their teams, and if you found yourself passed over too often and not kept busy, soon there would be no place for you in the firm. " " In the firm’s early years, a tally of each consultant's “billability.” the percentage of the person’s ume billed out to clients, was posted every month on the back of a door of a coat closet that everyone could visit. all the better to compare your percentage with others’. Consultants in charge of client engagements would pick the people they wanted to staff their teams, and if you found yourself passed over too often and not kept busy, soon there would be no place for you in the firm. "

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sanket Bote

    This book talks about the detailed history of great consulting firms in the world. Their Way of working, evolution of many great consulting theories, thought processes behind projects and decisions. It was a great experience reading the fascinating history of our dream companies but it is all history! You might never see many theories and logics given in the book in today's world. I believe there isn't much to gain from the book other than philosophical lessons. This book talks about the detailed history of great consulting firms in the world. Their Way of working, evolution of many great consulting theories, thought processes behind projects and decisions. It was a great experience reading the fascinating history of our dream companies but it is all history! You might never see many theories and logics given in the book in today's world. I believe there isn't much to gain from the book other than philosophical lessons.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Phinehas Osei

    A quite technical recounting of the history of the evolution of the American business idea. My boss at work recommended this book to me, and while it took me some time to plough through it, I am appreciative of the efforts certain players made to bring Consultancy and business to this stage. It's definitely a book I will keep discussing with other readers. If one is into consultancy and the corporate world, this book should be read at some point. A quite technical recounting of the history of the evolution of the American business idea. My boss at work recommended this book to me, and while it took me some time to plough through it, I am appreciative of the efforts certain players made to bring Consultancy and business to this stage. It's definitely a book I will keep discussing with other readers. If one is into consultancy and the corporate world, this book should be read at some point.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    An enjoyable synthesis of intellectual and business history, surveying the development of strategy and the growth of the major consulting firms that sold it. For a layperson like myself, this served as an accessible introduction to both subjects, but someone with more interest in either should turn elsewhere for a fuller treatment. Indeed, the book left me interested in how these firms actually apply these concepts, and it would have benefited from one or two case studies of consultant projects.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Navid Sarwar

    Great book on the history of strategy from the mid 90s. Wonderful insights on the thought processes of the leaders and executes at the established consulting firms, specifically MBB. It concludes with the financial crisis of 2008 which I thought could have been more elaborated on from the consultants' point of view and perspectives from strategy. But overall a good, academic read. Great book on the history of strategy from the mid 90s. Wonderful insights on the thought processes of the leaders and executes at the established consulting firms, specifically MBB. It concludes with the financial crisis of 2008 which I thought could have been more elaborated on from the consultants' point of view and perspectives from strategy. But overall a good, academic read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Eliza

    Really interesting book that looks at trends in different approaches to business strategy over a period of decades, including those of BCG, Bain, Michael Porter and Clay Christensen. Clear explanation of different frameworks and how they developed (growth/share matrix, experience curve, five forces, etc). Good contextualization.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Paul-Filip Ilasca

    I like the structure of the book, chapters are in a sweet flow. Also enjoyed the interference between history, biography, economics - all trying to reach a meta view of the issue at hand - but sometimes it seems like it's too much, dilluting the info. Other than that, it's a great subject to tackle. I like the structure of the book, chapters are in a sweet flow. Also enjoyed the interference between history, biography, economics - all trying to reach a meta view of the issue at hand - but sometimes it seems like it's too much, dilluting the info. Other than that, it's a great subject to tackle.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Roel Peters

    Cleverly written, ordered chronologically and a lot of emphasis on the emblematic frameworks of the early consulting days. I would have loved to see the book sidetrack a bit into IT & tax consultancy, but it didn't. It really sticks with strategy consulting. For all consultants out there: it's a great read about the shoulders you're standing on. Cleverly written, ordered chronologically and a lot of emphasis on the emblematic frameworks of the early consulting days. I would have loved to see the book sidetrack a bit into IT & tax consultancy, but it didn't. It really sticks with strategy consulting. For all consultants out there: it's a great read about the shoulders you're standing on.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hans Morsink

    Although this book was highly informative, it was a bit hard to read. It sometimes read more like a book used for study than as a history book. But as said, highly informative, could be written a bit more accessable.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Owen Raisch

    Critical reading for anyone expanding their career with an interest in consulting or business strategy. This book offers a piercing look into the accomplishments and limitations of both fields with a mostly well-organized narrative.

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