2012年1月10日 星期二

Avoiding fluff is the surest route to success

Avoiding fluff is the surest route to success

It looks to me as if there is really only one question you are asking in each case. The question is: ‘what is really going on here?’ ”


The remark was made by a colleague of Richard Rumelt at the Anderson School of Management at UCLA, who had sat through several of Prof Rumelt’s strategy classes.

说这段话的,是加州大学洛杉矶分校(UCLA)安德森管理学院(Anderson School of Management)理查德•鲁梅尔特(Richard Rumelt)教授的一位同事。他已经听过鲁梅尔特教授的好几堂策略课。

Prof Rumelt, described by the McKinsey Quarterly as “the strategist’s strategist”, is not the publicity-seeking guru routinely heard on the conference circuit. He is author of two books, with an interval of 37 years between them. The more recent, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, was the most interesting business book of 2011.

鲁梅尔特教授被《麦肯锡季刊》(McKinsey Quarterly)称为“策略师的策略师”。与会议圈中常见的那些“大师”不同,他不喜欢吸引公众的注意。他著有两本书,这两本的出版时间间隔有37 年。其中较新的这本《好策略,坏策略》(Good Strategy/Bad Strategy),是2011年最有意思的商业书籍。

The comment of Prof Rumelt’s colleague appears banal but gets to the heart of the matter. I long ago realised that to understand a business I would learn much more by talking to people involved in day-to-day operations than the chief executive. They represented “what is really going on here?”.


The message of Prof Rumelt’s book is that strategy is really just careful thinking about business problems. Checklists – Swot (strengths, weaknesses/limitations, opportunities, threats), five forces or seven Ss – are popular because they are a starting point for people who are unaccustomed to structured thought. Good strategy begins with diagnosis. And diagnosis is analysis, not a description of symptoms. You don’t go to your doctor to be told you have a sore throat. You go to be told you have an infection and that an antibiotic will fix it. The doctor tries to discover “what is really going on here?” and the measure of his competence is his ability to do that.

鲁梅尔特教授的这本书所蕴含的信息是,策略实际上只是对商业问题的认真思考。清单式分析—— SWOT模型(优势、劣势/局限、机会、威胁)、五力模型(five forces)或7S模型——之所以广受欢迎,是因为它们为不习惯结构性思考的人提供了一个起点。好策略从“诊断”开始。而诊断是分析,不是对症状的描 述。你去看医生,不是为了听他说你喉咙疼。他应该告诉你的是,你感染了,用抗生素就能治。医生会努力弄明白“这里究竟发生着什么?”,而他能否做到这一 点,体现了他是否称职。

If that also sounds obvious, it isn’t what business people typically do. In the business world – as sometimes in the surgery – the reputation of the CEO or value of the consultant is measured not by the accuracy of the diagnosis but by the confidence with which the prescription is dispensed. Many business gurus resemble George Bernard Shaw’s doctor, Sir Colenso Ridgeon, who treated every ailment with an exhortation to “stimulate the phagocytes”. Their PowerPoint presentations reiterate the patient’s complaint and prescribe their universal template.

尽管这听起来同样很好理解,但商界人士通常却不是这样做的。在商界,就像有时在诊所那样,首席 执行官的声誉或顾问的价值并非以诊断的精准程度来衡量,而是以“配药方”时的信心来衡量。许多商界大师就像萧伯纳(George Bernard Shaw)笔下的医生科伦索•里金(Sir Colenso Ridgeon)爵士一样,对每一种疾病都给出“刺激吞噬细胞”的医嘱。他们的演示文稿会复述患者的病症,然后开出通用的药方。

The starting point of bad strategy is often a goal – a 20 per cent share of the European widget market, with a 15 per cent return on equity. The bad strategist confuses policy – to become Europe’s leading widget maker through complementary acquisitions – with strategy. Bad strategy is often fluff – to become the widget provider of choice by exceeding customer expectations.

坏策略的起点通常是目标,譬如,在欧洲微件(widget)市场占据20%的份额,同时实现 15%的股本回报率。糟糕的策略师会把方针(比如通过互补性收购成为欧洲最大的微件供应商)与策略混为一谈。坏策略通常空洞无物,例如,通过超越客户的期 望,成为受消费者青睐的微件供应商。

Declining market share or inadequate profitability is not the problem, but the symptom of the problem. But in business, as in the surgery, such diagnosis is frequently uncomfortable and embarrassing. And self-examination demands honesty which is particularly difficult to achieve in groups of competitive individuals. It is easier to announce aspirations, or to luxuriate in fluff. Then you seek “buy-in” to your bad strategy. That process saves thought and minimises disagreement.

市场份额下降和盈利能力不足并不是问题本身,而是问题的症状。但在商界,正如在诊所一样,诊断 过程通常是令人不适和尴尬的。自我检查要求诚实,这一点在由相互竞争的个人组成的群体中尤难实现。而展示雄心或高谈阔论则要容易得多。然后,你要做的就是 为你的坏策略争取支持。这一过程免去了思考,也最大程度地减少了异议。

For Prof Rumelt, the kernel of a strategy is the diagnoses of a situation, the choice of an overall guiding policy and the design of coherent action. A guiding policy is an element of strategy, but is not a strategy until it is translated into specific actions. One of the silliest remarks in business is “strategy is easy, implementation is difficult”. But strategy that lacks a clear path to implementation is not strategy at all, just wishful thinking.

在鲁梅尔特教授看来,策略的核心是诊断形势、选择总体指导方针和设计前后一致的行动。指导方针 有几分策略的意味,但在它转化为具体行动之前还不能算是策略。商界一个最愚蠢的观点是,“制定策略易,实施策略难”。但是,缺少明确实施途径的策略根本不 能算是策略,只能算是一厢情愿的想法。

As it was for Chad Logan, the hero of one of Prof Rumelt’s many delicious vignettes, whose strategy was 20/20: 20 per cent growth and 20 per cent margins accompanied by the mantra that you can achieve anything if you want it enough. The same magical thinking served Joseph Silver, the investment banker who proclaimed the virtues of economies of mass. Dr Ridgeon is alive and well – and ensconced at Morgan Stanley. Read Good Strategy/Bad Strategy for the entertaining experiences of a man who has spent 40 years in the strategy business. But read it principally for its profound yet common sense approach to business.

鲁梅尔特教授讲述了许多有趣的小故事。查德•洛根(Chad Logan)是其中一个故事的主人公,他的策略是“20/20”,即20%的增长率和20%的利润率,再加上“只有想不到,没有做不到”的口号。鼓吹聚合 效益(economies of mass)好处的投资银行家约瑟夫•西尔弗(Joseph Silver),也有同样的神奇思想。“里金医生”依然健在,而且就舒舒服服地呆在摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)。读一读《好策略,坏策略》吧,它讲述了一个在策略行业摸爬滚打40年的人的有趣经历。但请把注意力主要放在它讲述的深刻而又不违背常识 的经商之道上。