Those who have studied business have probably heard of the Boston Consulting Group Matrix, the McKinsey 7-S Framework, Michael Porter’s Value Chain, and various other strategy tools. But where did they all come from, and how did the theory behind them develop? The former managing editor at Fortune Magazine, Walter Kiechel III, explains the history of ideas in the field of strategy over the past 40 years in his book The Lords of Strategy: The Secret History of the New Corporate World.

This is the most interesting book on strategy that I have read, because it tells the story of the individuals and consulting firms who created the strategy concepts and tools which revolutionised corporations around the world towards the end of the 20th century. The idiosyncrasies of brilliant strategists are described, as are their struggles to have their ideas accepted.  The author’s personal knowledge of the major players makes the narrative more compelling.

The author even-handedly discusses both the good points and the bad points of the various strategic ideas, but on the whole he is an admirer of the lords of strategy and tends to exonerate them from blame for the mess the world now finds itself in, whereas others might be inclined to accuse them of encouraging companies to undertake unwise levels of risk in order to maximise short-term shareholder returns. I found some parts of the book a bit dry, but for the most part it was highly engaging.

A video review of this book is now available at my new site, BusinessLessons.org.

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