Skip to content

“Better, Simpler Strategy – A Value-Based Guide to Exceptional Performance” by Felix Oberholzer-Gee – a HBR Book Essentials Review

Better, Simpler Strategy – Book Essentials by

Stuck with quite a few strategic dilemmas? Not sure what your business should do next? Maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board – or even back to school. “Better, Simpler Strategy – A Value-Based Guide to Exceptional Performance” by Felix Oberholzer-Gee goes beyond the theory books, into the realms of the organizational practice.

One could theoretically argue that not one, but 10 books can be written on the strategy implementation topic. Strategy deployments seems to be ever-elusive – and the more experience a Board of Director’s has, the more the doubts on the potential pitfalls. Kaplan and Norton (2005) estimate that fewer than 15% of the organizations around the world are successful in their strategy implementation. Think about it, one in 6 companies is happy with the strategic outcome of their own-decided actions!

Felix Oberholzer-Gee takes this topic at the next level. First of all, he is no-nonsense scholar. He starts with 2 strong statements:

“Strategy is simple” and

“I am not sure if this is the right sentence to begin this book”.

Yet, Oberholzer-Gee kicks the ball down the road and goes on. “Better, Simpler Strategy” starts in full force by defining what is “Exceptional Performance” – the goal of any organization than wants to over-achieve. Oberholzer-Gee wonders why, despite all of us (intelligent employees after all) knowing very well what to do and how to do it, organizations fail. Here I cannot help myself but noticing how he follow’s on Michael Porter footsteps:

A commercial organizations’ main objective has the despised name Profit. 

Strategy is about maximizing profits  for as long as possible.

Oberholzer’s-Gee idea gets the reader though a bit further – the profit margin, where any company makes money, is a difference between what the organization is willing to pay to its suppliers AND what the customers are willing to pay you for your product or service:

As any good book, “Better, Simpler Strategy” is filled with real-world examples. From Best Buy, which pioneered what we see today as the ubiquitous electronics marketplace for customer;s convenience, to Colgate-Palmolive or AutoZone. 

Next chapters take classical strategic concepts, apparently very complicated – and turns them inside-out to see if they hold:

2 – A Sea of Opportunities – Blue Ocean Strategy vs Red Oceans sector competitions

3 – Think Value, not Profit – Porter’s Competitive advantage, D’Aventis competitive strongholds

4 – Claps and Cheers – Creating Customer Delight – Strategic Roadmaps (Kaplan and Norton)

5 – Hiding in Plain Sight – Near Customers – Marketing Mix and proximity effects (Peter Drucker)

6 – Looking for complements – complementary products & economies of scale (Porter again)

… and quite a few other ideas and pages.

I must say – intelligible books on strategy are really few and far in between. The authors seem often to be in love with the topics’ complexity. And after all, if strategy would be so simple, would we really need anymore expensive consultants, who could help our companies see the forest from the trees?

The answer to the rhetorical question above reads “yes”. If your company has a good product or service, which the customers want, “Better, Simpler Strategy” might help you get it to more customers. And grow – which is, after all, the final purpose of any company. So give Oberholzer-Gee’s book a try and see if it’s for you!

Title: “Better, Simpler Strategy – A Value-Based Guide to Exceptional Performance” 

Author: Felix Oberholzer-Gee 

Release Date: April 2021

Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *