Many of today’s rising managers and executives come from a range of academic backgrounds, from anthropology to zoology. While this doesn’t diminish their intelligence or critical thinking skills, I have found that many middle managers lack some of the foundational learnings critical to a business education.
I still think that practical experience outweighs academic theory. However, many people growing their knowledge within a particular industry develop a closed, myopic view of their industries and business strategy.
For this reason, I believe it is important to familiarize (or re-familiarize, for those who once attended business school) oneself with core strategic training.
Below are two eminent articles by Peter Drucker and Michael Porter, which capture the essence of many business school lectures and books. Read and understand these two articles and you’ll quickly be speaking the language of MBA grads…without the ridiculous tuition.
What Makes an Effective Executive
by Peter F. Drucker
An effective executive does not need to be a leader in the sense that the term is now most commonly used. Harry Truman did not have one ounce of charisma, for example, yet he was among the most effective chief executives in U.S. history. Similarly, some of the best business and nonprofit CEOs I’ve worked with over a 65-year consulting career were not stereotypical leaders. They were all over the map in terms of their personalities, attitudes, values, strengths, and weaknesses. They ranged from extroverted to nearly reclusive, from easygoing to controlling, from generous to parsimonious.
What made them all effective is that they followed the same eight practices.
How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy
by Michael E. Porter
The essence of strategy formulation is coping with competition. Yet it is easy to view competition too narrowly and too pessimistically. While one sometimes hears executives complaining to the contrary, intense competition in an industry is neither coincidence nor bad luck.
Moreover, in the fight for market share, competition is not manifested only in the other players. Rather, competition in an industry is rooted in its underlying economics, and competitive forces exist that go well beyond the established combatants in a particular industry. Customers, suppliers, potential entrants, and substitute products are all competitors that may be more or less prominent or active depending on the industry.
The state of competition in an industry depends on five basic forces…