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The Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gaps Between Plans, Actions, and Results
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The Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gaps Between Plans, Actions, and Results

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  199 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Executing strategy is an enduring management problem. There is often a significant gap between what managers plan, what they do and the outcome they achieve. Stephen Bungay finds a fresh approach from an unexpected source--the nineteenth-century Prussian Army. His solution is based not on theory, but on sets of practices that have evolved over many years in the fast-moving ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published February 16th 2011 by Nicholas Brealey Publishing (first published November 1st 2010)
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Jack Vinson
Aug 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From my blog.

I've had Stephen Bungay's The Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gaps between Plans, Actions, and Results on my reading list for some time, as it has shown up in a number of overlapping communities as relevant thinking. Most recently, his name came up in my last post with respect to the Spice Girls Question.

The book is a study of military history as a guide to seeing how leaders might deal with uncertainty - in particular the German milita
Jan Höglund
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Art of Action by Stephen Bungay covers a story going back some 200 years. It's the story of the Prussian Army which, according to the author, "followed precisely the evolution trajectory we are on, but with a head start of about 150 years." It's a story about others who have been here before for a surprisingly long time, and what we can learn from them.

From my perspective, it's really a story about an organization trying to become agile. The starting point is a catastrophic October day in 18
Bjoern Rochel
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, kaizen
I'm always viewing these management books from an IT / software development perspective. Please bear that in mind when you read my review.

I like what this book brings to the table for the omnipresent question of how cross functional, mostly self directed teams align with higher management levels and strategy. A lot of it feels natural, obvious and as Bungay says "just common sense" to me.

Even if you just use his proposed Strategy Briefing only as a thinking tool and stakeholder management tool,
Martin Samuels
Jan 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has become a commonplace for management books to refer to military thinkers on leadership, but normally these thinkers are ancient Chinese writers, such as Sun Tzu. Here, Bungay has taken Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, architect of Prussia's astounding victories over Austria in 1866 and France in 1870. Bungay shows that the system of command developed by Moltke addressed the problem of 'friction', first identified by Clausewitz, in ways that are fully applicable to modern business. The explana ...more
Wahid Shalaly
Briefly, this is a very interesting book with a lot of valuable lessons from history (military history) and business. The book introduces a valuable & intuitive approach that can be applied, from my point of view, to many fields and aspects of life.

Ideas of the book sound very logic and intuitive, let you wonder why this approach (or equivalent) isn't the mainstream in business (at least) after all this time? The approach, from my point of view, is valid to be applied to many aspects of lif
Franck Chauvel
S. Bungay draws here a parallel between management of a business and of a battlefield. Looking back
at some "old" 19th century battles, he explains how Prussian generals understood that the uncertainty of real life generates "friction" that prevent the execution of their carefully planned strategies. They then relax the precision of commands and gave unit commanders the freedom to act or react as needed. This tradition, still alive in German forces, contributed
to there successes. The same hold f
Chris Downey
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of interesting parts of the book and things I think I will take away and use.

I definitely agree on the importance of intent and context. The part I struggled with is the concept of the higher level stating the task of the lower level. Im wondering if this is just down to terminology - what I associate with the term t 'task' may be different from the author's intent? One for further research. In saying that, at the end, it does say how the concepts can still be compatible with self organisin
Thomas Loefgren
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book about leadership, management and direction and how to best get teams/organisations to operate smoothly and in unison during uncertain or changing circumstances/environment.

One of those books that put so much stuff you "already know" into clear models, that make you see things in a new and more informed way. Recommeded for people interested in leadership and very applicable to innovative/creative processes.

For a geek like me it also doesn't hurt that it uses Prussian War history less
Emily Stewart
Sep 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bungay explains how to succeed in business you must have clear and concise objectives that he demonstrates by using examples from warfare - he is a historian turned management consultant. It explains how to lead to tangible positive results: by making tough decisions and prioritising effectively. It is an enjoyable read and worthwhile for anyone in a leadership position.
Feb 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably the best book about strategy, leadership and management I have read to date. Fully utilizing his excellent grasp of both military history and modern management theory and practice the author manages to explain why the seemingly simplest things are so hard in both war and business and show a path towards reducing this friction.
Sep 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
Good good. Its a perfect book for middle managers or anyone responsible for the execution of something bigger than themselves.
Andy Wagner
Cordial spiffy

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Shi such pkg touch screech ahs agendas Sussex no shutout d fussy
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“If…there is a conflict between structure and strategy, the structure will win.” 3 likes
“Do not try to predict the effects your actions will have, because you can’t. Instead, encourage people to adapt their actions to realize the overall intention as they observe what is actually happening. Give them boundaries which are broad enough to take decisions for themselves and act on them.” 2 likes
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