Inside Business: Seven sins of strategy

IF IT were not for the appealing way she throws her brickbats, business would have had enough of Eileen Shapiro by now, writes Roger Trapp. Having poured scorn on managers' willingness to put their faith in the latest "big thing" in Fad Surfing in the Boardroom, which attacked executives for delegating responsibility to consultants, she's back with The Seven Deadly Sins of Business.

This book explores the fundamental beliefs which she perceives as driving corporate decisions - often the wrong way. They are, she says, what lay behind Barings' slide from great British institution through crisis to a Dutch subsidiary. They are why Nestle and General Foods missed out on the gourmet coffee craze in America, and why Bill Gates almost missed the significance of the internet.

The sins look inoffensive and even impressive - until Ms Shapiro's spin. They are:

q Terrific plans (even though you may have lost sight of the real strategy).

q Outstanding products (even though the market may have moved in a different direction).

q Playing to win (when you're playing the wrong game by the wrong rules).

q Turbo-charged employees (while cutting the investment needed to build skills).

q Creating workplace sizzle (but neglecting motivation).

q Being a learning organisation (even though managers cannot see the facts for the creed).

q Investing in high-tech "forward intelligence systems" (while losing battles that count).

So what can organisations do to avoid what Ms Shapiro calls "doom-loop thinking"? They can make beliefs explicit so they are not caught by surprise. They can put them at the start of a sequence that includes observation, orientation, decision-making and action. "Management", she says, "is first and foremost about thinking, and then taking action."

q 'The Seven Deadly Sins of Business' is published by Capstone at pounds 14.99.

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