Rediscover the art of strategy in decisions

Posted on April 29, 2022 at 8:55

Here, at the moment of triumphant short-termism and short-sighted tactics, is a regenerative work. It is about what we miss most in our societies blinded by speed, putting the frenzy of action before the art of reflection. We talk about strategy, the big word is out, a notion that is mentioned regularly, but more often in a nostalgic way, as if the time for long-term vision is over once and for all.

In their work, Christine Kerdellant, also editor-in-chief of Les Echos, and General Vincent Desportes strive to revive this cardinal value of management, whether it concerns the conduct of an army, a country, or a company. To support their demonstration, they had the excellent idea of ​​inviting great figures for whom strategy has always been a priority to their pages.

Vision, endurance and performance

Therefore, we will find in this book the testimonies of General David Petraeus, former commander in chief in Afghanistan and former director of the CIA, of Jacques Attali, former closest adviser to François Mitterrand, of Michel-Edouard Leclerc, head of the same name, Denis Kessler, president of SCOR, Alain Minc, who advises many great bosses and many other players. All of them provide fascinating readings, both theoretical and practical, of the art of strategy, which most of them have practiced at the highest level. If we add the research work and reflection of the authors, this book definitively distances itself from the insipid managerial sermon that we often face on this matter.

Etymologically, strategy is the art of leading an army. Its conditions have guided its extension to the civil sphere. Even today, nothing has changed. The strategy is based on a triptych: above all, a vision, that is, the desire to reach a final state different from the initial one. Then the resistance. Every strategic action encounters adversities that must be dealt with. Lastly, performance. Any movement supposes a consumption of resources by definition inferior to those that you need to advance in your projects.

No strategy can be successful if these three dimensions are not immediately present in the leader’s mind, the authors warn. When he decides to marry the computer with the phone inside the iPhone, Steve Jobs envisions that he will have to defend himself tooth and nail against his competitors, his shareholders and even his executives (adversity). And it will take a lot of persuasion to stop expensive projects and get Apple to participate in this project (resource management).

Navigation in sight

It is a certainty: no leader can sustainably impose himself in this century if he is content to sail by sight, without having developed a strategy that will lead for several years, write Christine Kerdellant and Vincent Desportes. “The strategy is what makes the difference between a boat and a keelboat”, agrees Denis Kessler. However, it would be a mistake to fix one’s course of action once and for all. Because the strategic universe itself is warped. Your action changes the other’s and everything the other does changes your own action. The good strategist is, therefore, the one who constantly adapts, without losing sight, however, of his point of arrival.

“The vision that guides the group has been the same for half a century, but we are adapting our strategy to social expectations to remain consistent with our promises”, testifies Michel-Edouard Leclerc, president of the strategic committee of the E.Leclerc centers. In order not to be caught off guard, intimate knowledge of the competition is an absolute imperative. “After twenty years of working at the head of Essilor, I was able to foresee the movements of Takao Sato, the boss of my most dangerous competitor, Hoya”, testifies Xavier Fontanet. “I was also able to reconstitute the accounts and budgets of its subsidiaries. But since he was a formidable competitor, Sato San was also able to replenish ours. »

Surveillance therefore, but also transparency. The strategy is also a story and its success depends on its good communication. You have to convince your own troops – membership is essential – but also public opinion. “The business leader must explain his vision, and therefore his strategy, to various audiences”, explains Anne Méaux, founder and president of the Image 7 agency. It cannot be contradictory. »

To be successful in his projects, a leader must “put the future in his every decision,” the authors write, and constantly arbitrate his field of action between the immediate battles he must win by preserving the future. A difficult art, but a remarkable art, whose infinite richness can be found thanks to this fascinating book.

aim for the top

by Vincent Desportes and Christine Kerdellant. Denoël editions, 368 pages, 20 euros.

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