Q & A with Mike and Scott
What led you to write this book?
Mike: As practitioner-educators, Scott and I saw a unique opportunity to write a book that can make tried and true theories and frameworks available and usable to the business community. Because Scott and I both worked in industry, then taught strategy at undergraduate, graduate and executive levels for years, we have a comprehensive toolkit with plenty of examples to make the frameworks accessible to the every-person. With that in mind, we fired up the computer, opened Word, and wrote the first sentence that we also use in class: “Welcome!” Since its publication, the feedback on our book has been overwhelmingly positive and we've seen it adopted in universities and corporations domestically and abroad.
Tell me more about the collaboration between you and Scott.
Mike: Scott has been an inspiration from the beginning of my academic career. In fact, my meeting with him while interviewing at various doctoral programs was a deciding factor for me to attend UMass. He and I have similar backgrounds, having both worked in service businesses where “strategic thinking” was a key deliverable. Scott also gave me my first teaching audience, inviting me to his strategy class to deliver a lecture on Judo Strategies. It was pretty intimidating! In terms of our research collaboration, we have incredibly complementary skills and, more importantly, while we both view the business world through a strategy lens, we approach it from different perspectives. We challenge each other’s thinking, but it’s always for the better…at least for me! I don’t want to speak for Scott.
If you were to sum up “strategy” in one sentence, what would you say?
Mike: “Seeing the world not as it is, but as it can be!” Too corny?
Scott: “A consistent means to achieve an objective.” Too black and white?
What do you hope readers will get out of the book?
Scott: “A different perspective on their organization. The other day I heard someone say – “good strategy is common sense.” This is in line with some of our comments in the opening chapter. On one level it grates on me, because it implies that I focus on something that a third grader could teach, but the larger problem is that it goes back to the famous quote by Voltaire, that “Common sense is not so common.” If good strategy is common sense, then why do so many companies fail? I hope folks reading this book are prompted to slow down their thinking, really taking a close look at their strategy.”
Who were your influencers when it comes to strategy?
Scott: “Two bosses that I had really where great strategist, and to this day, I always think about. At Maptech, I worked for a guy named Ed Markham in the mid 1990s for almost 4 years. I was too young and dumb to get it then, but I get it now. Ed was a master at understanding that a good strategy has to be more than an idea. He was the best strategist I ever saw at execution. He kept these yellow pads for the details about the day to day of strategy. He didn’t micro manage, but he sat on top of every aspect of strategy. I wish I paid more attention to Ed when I was younger.
The second was a boss I had at AMR Research, Scott Lundstrom. He was the lead analyst and group vice president for e-Commerce, where I was a team member. In the late 1990s, early 00s, this was a big deal since the internet was gaining mass acceptance. We would consult and advise some of the biggest companies in the world on their e-commerce strategies. We would also advise some of the biggest tech companies in the world on their strategies. Scott was, without an exaggeration but to borrow a phrase, always the smartest guy in the room. He would dissect and tear apart a company’s strategy in about 5 minutes. He knew the technology, he knew the space, he knew the customer, and more importantly, he knew value – why is your company in business, and what does it need to do to stay in business? He would always do it in an articulate, respectful fashion, but inevitably, the folks running the company more often than not would disagree or ignore his advice.
But here was the beauty – in the tech market during that time period, things changed fast, and I mean fast. So Scott would say “X is going to happen” or “this is why your strategy has holes in it.” And sure enough – three months later – “Boom!” His predictions would come true! Made Scott look even that much smarter. He “got” strategy. I learned a great deal from him.
I could give you some of the worst strategist I have ever worked with, but that would probably reduce my LinkedIn connections by half!
Where do you get your inspiration?
Scott: “With regards to inspiration, I think from my students. It never ceases to amaze me how bright and hard working some of these 22 years olds are. Last semester, I had a great class - I mean a great class - we just talked strategy all semester long.”
Mike: "Inspiration is like the Force...I'll take my cues from Yoda: 'You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes'.