Chapter 3: Tools, What Tools?

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Chapter 3 takes an axe to the tools of strategy that pass as ‘method’ in our profession – most are neither reliable nor useful, so it is hardly management’s fault that they don’t bother to learn or apply them. We have check-lists of reminders, lists of options you are supposed to choose between (often based on false distinctions), magic bullets, two-by-two grids, and “frameworks” of words-and-arrows.

Most of these are not usable, either because we can’t agree on what the words mean that go into them (what exactly is a ‘competence’ any way?), or because they pretend to reflect cause-effect relationships that are demonstrably unreliable. A few tools work OK – their conclusions are somewhat reliable – but even these are of limited use because they give the same answer whenever you use them. IKEA, Amazon, BMW and Infosys face pretty much the same industry conditions and have pretty much the same strategic position today as years or decades in the past.

So, is this attack on strategy methods justified? Are the tools really as poor as I make out, or are companies in fact getting useful guidance from them? If so, let’s have examples of companies who made great strategic decisions by applying some brilliant strategy analysis with these tools, or examples of companies using some recognised method to drive their strategy forward from year to year. Maybe there are some great tools out there we just don’t know about (check out a pretty full selection at


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