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

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  591 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Imagine running a business without a strategy. It would be akin to driving blindfolded, to building a house without a blueprint. Yet just fifty years ago business “plans” were mere extrapolations of the status quo, heedless of the forces that determine the fate of today’s organizations: competitive threats, customer needs and business costs. The concept of strategy changed ...more
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Published September 8th 2010 by Brilliance Audio (first published May 4th 2009)
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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
...more
Lobstergirl
Aug 03, 2013 Lobstergirl marked it as aborted  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Louis Menand
Shelves: business-finance
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 ...more
Shaun
This book was a great read if you're interested in the evolution of business strategy, which I am. It was interesting to hear how the idea of strategy in business did not exist much before the 1980s. Management consulting is a newer industry in our economy. The value added by consultants in management consulting firms can be argued both pro and con. I love this field, which I recently entered. I found this book extremely interesting and helpful as I am learning how to use strategy to help add va ...more
Frank Kelly
The world of business consultants and the use of "strategy" for business development has always fascinated and at times infuriated me. Fascinated because there is clearly a lot of brilliant thinking behind the work and advice of cusultants. And infuriated me because I have sat through too many consultantant meetings wondering why in the world are we paying these guys so much money to basically tell me what I already know but with lots of excrutiatingly detailed charts and graphs that, well, don' ...more
Keith
An entertaining history of the management consulting profession. Many people blame consultants for all that is wrong in the business world, but while this book certainly doesn't paint a flattering picture, it reveals the depth of contribution that has been made to in many ways improving our competitive position in the world. The book did not change my perception of the management consulting industry, which I am part of. I read many, many business/management books. Each time, I come away agreeing ...more
Michael
The Lords of Strategy fills a void - the history of Strategy and how it came about. As a management consultant who had worked for one of the major consultancies, I was first a bit bored reading the beginnings of Strategy, as many things are well known both in consulting circles and beyond. More and more, however, I was drawn into the fantastic writing of the author. He finally convinced me with many details that proved over and over again his deep research (e.g., his knowledge about the importan ...more
Dennis Boccippio
Five stars for what has been my favorite read of the year, thus far.

While a history of strategic management consulting might sound like the last place to look for an engaging, rewarding and entertaining read, it is a testament to Kiechel's skill that this book comes alive. It simultaneously traces the history of several key individuals, key consulting firms, key strategic "theories", and key societal views towards corporations and capitalism as a whole. Kiechel brings order and continuity to wh
...more
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
...more
Marks54
This is a set of essays by an editor at Fortune magazine about the growth of the strategy consulting business starting with the Boston Consulting Group and moving through the development of Bain, McKinsey, Monitor, and others up to the early 2000s. It reads like an oral history of the business and the general approaches taking by its leading lights. I had low expectations for the book - these stories are generally well known and the firms tend to be shameless self-promoters. The author, however, ...more
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
...more
Liam
Three c's: cost, competitiors, customers.
Three p's: postitioning, people, process.

"'Two things win you status among your colleagues here,' another HBS professor says, 'creating a hugely popular billboard course and which corporate boards you serve on.'" (130)

"The tightly bounded company so long at the core of strategy's deliberations increasingly seems a limiting assumption. The twenty-first century version of the discipline will have to offer more help if, or when, the dominant verb for corpora
...more
Andrew Gillette
This book reviews the relatively new business concept of scientific based management strategy or *taylorism. In reviewing the phenomenon of big business consulting, the book reviews how some of the biggest businesses of today went global from more humble beginnings. Big business consulting, such as the firms Bain Capital and the Boston Group are reviewed in their implementation of management consulting upon businesses in growth markets.

Esoterics aside, if you've ever wondered why big corporate o
...more
Bilal
Before this I did not have much exposure to strategy so therefore did not know much about the history of strategy. This book coherently outlined the history of some of the biggest players from McKinsey to Bain Capital. Depending on your background there are many different ways you can interpret this book. Because of my entrepreneurial background I connected all the strategies and insight to starting and running my business. Before this book it felt as if I was slowly sipping from a water fountai ...more
Leslie
My rating system is probably pretty haphazard at this point; this book was good but it probably is a little far from my life to have an enormous lasting impact. It is a fascinating history of business strategy and of the concepts and organizational structures that have contributed to a major values shift in the United States in the past half-century. Although the Lords of Strategy did not set out to make monetary profit an all-encompassing value and to increase the inequality between rich and po ...more
Gersonda
Excellent book combining just enough history, biography and theory to create a solid novel.
At times the book strays from the presentation of the history and development of strategy, focusing more on consultants, consulting firms, and what its like to be a consultant.
These forays into the history of consulting add to the book rather than subtract from it for somebody unfamiliar with the industry.
In general the book provides a 10,000 foot view of strategy (and consulting for that matter), howeve
...more
Cristobal
As a former management consultant I enjoyed this book a lot. It describes with incredible precision the strangeness and ambiguity of the consultant endeavor: you strive for intellectual achievement but at the back of your mind are always thinking - how practical is this? No wonder that consulting reports so often end up as paper weights. Consulting can be extremely useful to corporations, but it takes the right corporate man and culture to be able to make it happen - for every Cemex transformati ...more
Tie Kim
I picked up this book after seeing it shortlisted in the Financial Times/Goldman Sachs best of 2010 business books. I found it to be highly readable and an entertaining yarn. Includes some terrific accounts of Bruce Henderson (BCG), Bill Bain (Bain & Company, including what led to his forming the eponymous consulting group), Fred Gluck (McKinsey), Michael Porter (Monitor), and Gary Hamel in particular. Walter Kiechel does a wonderful job of keeping the reader engaged as he takes you through ...more
Johannes Kananen
Kiechel provides nice insights about the history of strategy and management consulting. For aspiring consultants a good baseline about the development of the consulting and almost a must-read.

In some situations I had difficulties figuring out where each (sub)chapter was heading to.
Luke
A remarkably entertaining insight into what a business means by "strategy" and where the concept originated. By focusing on the intellectuals responsible for modern strategy, it avoids dryness and anchors theory in the larger-than-life anecdotes of the "Lords".
Sam Motes
A good summary of the fathers of strategy such as Ducker who lead to thinkers such as Porter and others. The big consulting agencies such as Boston Consulting Group, Mckenzie, Bayne and others built on the Strategy momentum by pulling in the top tier MBA programs high flyers to change how business is done. Kiechel does a great job of giving a good historical look at how the industry was built and how the cut throat high octane day in the life takes place.
Shane
This book covers the history of the major management consulting companies and the other players in business strategy. It's arranged in mostly chronological order, discussing the development (and erosion) of major paradigms and key concepts. The book clearly conveys the personalities of some of the key individuals, including founders of the companies and key professors. I highly recommend it for people entering management consulting or those interested in the topic.
Kenny Pratt
I really liked this book. An illuminating history of corporate strategy and how it has evolved over the past 40 years. Helped me have greater context for the the strategic models I learned in business school. I can now see how the search for competitive advantage has shifted over time. Even though the book's stated aim is not to teach the reader about specific strategies, I liked the review and it inspired many ideas I can apply to my business.
Rangarajan Iyengar
i heard the audio book and liked it quite a lot. since i listened to it while driving to work and back, there were several instances when i had to focus on the crazy traffic that distracted me from listening. despite that, i found the 'read' quite interesting. would recommend it to people interested in the subject. of course i would have loved to read this several years ago but better late than never :-)
Susmit Datta
Fluid, vivid history of corporate strategy as it blooms from a concept to a full fledged profession, and the inexorable rise of the management consultants!
Dennis Willingham
Great concise history of the rise of strategy as a management discipline. Great overview of the subject, a must-read for anyone involved in setting strategy or considering hiring a strategy consultant. Helps make sense of the parade of the management-de-jour programs of the last 2 decades. And, despite the dryness of the subject, an enjoyable, entertaining read
Aman Bhatnagar
An absorbing and comprehensive history of strategy as a discipline, as a force and as one of the buzzwords of today. From the way the big three firms shaped the concept to Michael Porter, Clay Christensen, C K Prahalad, Fred Gluck, Tom Peters, Bob Waterman and others - it is a must read for anyone thinking of entering a career in consulting or strategy.
Johann
My favorite word of the month: “Greater Taylorism”.

While there are a few lengths and repetitions to come by, the book's great, and not only a story of people but a rare and insightful peek on the strategy/management theories of the latest thirty something years. It's rare I enjoyed reading a business related book so much.

Anandh Sundar
The book gave a great history of strategy as it evolved including the history of the major firms and some idea of where they are now. however, he could have been more future looking ans mentioned about where he sees them evolving. But otherwise, a book that lives up to its title
Tom Kamei
This was a pretty dry book, but was helpful to understand the cannon-esque thought framework that the profession uses to approach analyzing businesses. As "More money than god" is to Hedge funds, "Lords of strategy" is to strategy consulting.
Steve Goodyear
It has some interesting parts looking at the history of modern management consulting and strategy theories, but I found it was a long, boring read. I was hoping for some revelations or insights, and of which, nothing really stands out.
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