Chapter 2: True Professionalism

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This chapter explains that strategy does not exhibit any of the features that you would expect of a true “profession”. It  has no standard vocabulary (we don’t know what “competitive advantage” is, and can’t even define the “performance” strategy is supposed to deliver). There are no proven cause-effect relationships, so even if we knew what performance was, we don’t know where it comes from – companies triumph in appallingly tough markets and mess up in easy ones. There is no cumulative knowledge, as there would be in finance, engineering or medicine – we have fads and slogans instead.

There are no established procedures that any two different professionals would follow for a given case … using the same information, assessing it in the same way, arriving at the same answers, and drawing the same conclusions. And there are no standards of professional practice – amateurism is apparently fine for the most important job our leaders do.

So should we expect the strategic management of large corporations and other businesses to be more professional – or is it all too subtle and complex for that to be a realistic expectation? Maybe there is in fact some mystical quality in our CEOs that makes them brilliant strategists, even if we can’t define what exactly that quality is? I make a strong case that strategy should have more in common with other professions – language, methods, standards and so on – but is that right, or should we be pretty happy with how things are?


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