Fad-Free Strategy

You may think that everything that can be written about business strategy has already been written, either by academics or practitioners. In their book Fad-Free Strategy: Rigorous Methods to Help Executives Make Better Decisions Confidently, senior consultants Daniel Deneffe and Herman Vantrappen, who have a joint 50+ years of management consulting experience, prove the contrary.

The book on competitive customer-focused strategy does not provide a single overs-simplifying management rule, as it recognizes that every company and its competitive situation are different. Instead, it enables practitioners to generate tailored strategic decisions so that they can make tough competitive choices confidently and achieve better financial results.

As a strategy adviser with 22 years of experience in corporations and consultancies, who - on a daily basis - navigates the two tensions between real world problems and academic writing on one hand, and between quantitative-empirical strategies for existing markets and visionary strategies for new market creation on the other, I welcome the hands-on focus on the integration of both. As such, the book is different from others in three important ways:

It provides an exhaustive approach and tools to make better decisions in the entire integrated strategy process, from what the authors call “grand strategy” over “operational strategy” to “execution”. Other books focus either on “grand strategy” (external and internal analysis, company vision, strategic thrusts, …) or “execution”. Fad-Free Strategy exhaustively addresses the evidence-based validation and detailing of the grand strategic choices prior to execution. As such, it is an end-to-end “how to” guide for economics-rooted strategic decisions.

It is rigorous and evidence-based. The approach proposed by Fad-Free Strategy has been proven to work across industries and regions in the real world. Its detailed cases are real and representative. Many academic textbooks provide theoretical constructs that can over-generalize complex realities; many business books by practitioners in turn provide simple yet ad hoc tools with little foundation. Other books focus on internally (culture, structure, capabilities) versus externally (industries, networks, alliances) focused approaches to strategies This book bridges some of these gaps so that managers concerned with competitive strategy can confidently use it over and over again.

It is customer-centric. The book provides tools to measure customer preferences to help practitioners generate tailored solutions to any strategic problem (new market entry, defense strategy, …). The authors claim that solutions must be based on anticipated customer behavior: ultimately customers make choices given their preferences and best alternatives, and these choices are a critical variable in determining whether a company’s ambitions and strategy will be successful or not. This is a refreshingly data-based vantage point, compared to books that impose a limited set of standard simple rules and that sometimes fail to capture the unique nature of each strategic situation.

This book is a must-read for all pragmatic managers who want a rigorous, managerial-economics rooted approach to business strategy that yields near-term results.

Reviewed by Olaf Goff.

Olaf Groth is CEO of Cambrian Futures Inc, a Professor at Hult International Business School and Professional Faculty at the Haas School of Business of the University of California Berkeley for strategy, innovation, economics and futures. He is a global expert network member at the World Economic Forum, and co-author of Solomon’s Code: Humanity in a World of Thinking Machines.