Strategy: A History (英語) ハードカバー – 2013/10/2
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In Strategy: A History, Sir Lawrence Freedman, one of the world's leading authorities on war and international politics, captures the vast history of strategic thinking, in a consistently engaging and insightful account of how strategy came to pervade every aspect of our lives.
The range of Freedman's narrative is extraordinary, moving from the surprisingly advanced strategy practiced in primate groups, to the opposing strategies of Achilles and Odysseus in The Iliad, the strategic advice of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, the great military innovations of Baron Henri de Jomini and Carl von Clausewitz, the grounding of revolutionary strategy in class struggles by Marx, the insights into corporate strategy found in Peter Drucker and Alfred Sloan, and the contributions of the leading social scientists working on strategy today. The core issue at the heart of strategy, the author notes, is whether it is possible to manipulate and shape our environment rather than simply become the victim of forces beyond one's control. Time and again, Freedman demonstrates that the inherent unpredictability of this environment-subject to chance events, the efforts of opponents, the missteps of friends-provides strategy with its challenge and its drama. Armies or corporations or nations rarely move from one predictable state of affairs to another, but instead feel their way through a series of states, each one not quite what was anticipated, requiring a reappraisal of the original strategy, including its ultimate objective. Thus the picture of strategy that emerges in this book is one that is fluid and flexible, governed by the starting point, not the end point.
A brilliant overview of the most prominent strategic theories in history, from David's use of deception against Goliath, to the modern use of game theory in economics, this masterful volume sums up a lifetime of reflection on strategy.
[Strategy: A History] elegantly synthesises strands of thought. (RUSI Journal)
This is an epic undertaking, of considerable intellectual ambition. It displays the familiar Freedmanian virtues: clarity, economy, proficiency, sagacity a compound of deep immersion, practised exposition, and a certain practical wisdom in it... In strategy, everything is connected. Freedman shows us how. (The Guardian)
To the best of my knowledge, this is the only book ever attempted on the entire historical and conceptual domain of strategy. Indeed, I am somewhat awestruck by the scope of the mission that Freedman set himself. ... Strategy is a very considerable, indeed monumental, product that no one else has had the temerity to attempt. (Colin Gray, International Affairs)
A discursive account with many interesting passages ... There is much of interest in Freedman's book. (Jeremy Black, History Today)
Arguably the best book ever written on strategy (in its widest sense). (Gerard DeGroot, Washington Post)
Freedman offers a wide-ranging, scholarly and entertaining history of the concept. He ranges from David and Goliath to Peter Drucker, by way of Marx and Machiavelli - and emphasises the importance of responding flexibly to events. (Books of the Year, Financial Times)
This is a book of startling scope, erudition and, more than anything, wisdom. (Janan Ganesh, Financial Times)
Magisterial ... wide-ranging erudition and densely packed argument. (The Economist)
[A] fascinating, at moments playful book. (Bruce Anderson, The Sunday Times)
Freedman's writing is admirably lucid, and the breadth of his knowledge and scholarship astonishing...Both as a history of ideas and as a work of reference, it is invaluable Erudite, wise and illuminating, Strategy is a book to be savoured and treasured. (Sir David Goodall, The Tablet)
While the book is long, the most important contributions occur near the end when Freedman offers his take on "best practices" in developing strategy. Here, he reveals his predilection for literature and story. It's a refreshing take, eschewing platitudes and cheerleading in favor of a more measured approach about the logic of the narrative versus formal logic, about the need to build in improvisation for any sort of resilient strategy, about the need to adapt, and so on. I found myself looking back at earlier parts of the piece and only then noticing the delicate foreshadowing of his views. To see this, reread his long passage on Churchill and note the similarities to Churchill's approach, as the author sees it, and the author's own approach.
I like it so much, I intend to assign it to my MBA Game Theory class.
The autor divides this work into four sections: strategy in the ancient world, the military approaches to strategy, the practise of strategy in the social and revolutionary sphere, and finally strategy as applied in the business world. There are a few final chapters on strategy based on game-theory and other quantitative approaches, with their conclusions and misgivings about this type of approach.
I work as a wealth manager and investment adviser, so I missed a section on strategy in the financial world.
The autor shows his enormous erudition regarding history, and at times, his abundance of knowledge regarding a historical subject contributes to digression and the writing can be often desultory. Therefore, the book is occasionally more about a specific period of history, than about strategy itself.
Nonetheless, the author develops his thesis well, that strategy is an activity whereby an actor ( be it a mythical figure, soldier, revolutionary or businessman ) tries to eke more out of a situation tan the hand he is dealt. He stresses that any strategy involves conflict with another, and therefore the outcome depends on how this conflict is resolved. He repeatedly shows the limitations of strategy in each of the spheres of action to which he refers. In each sphere, and especially in business, he points out that any strategy must be viewed in its overall context, and unexpected outcomes be accounted for. He gives the example of the battle of Trafalgar in which, in spite of Nelson achieving a glorious victory, Napoleón still remained in power on continental Europe. Of course, many more examples are provided. Because of the complexity of interaction which strategy involves, Freedman seems to advocate for a step-by-step approach to any activity regarding forward action, such as planning and strategic deployment of resources: over-confidence is to be avoided and continuous assesment is a must.
Freedman's style in this book is somewhat rambling, like someone who is thinking out loud, or that of a university lecturer evoking contrasting points of view. This can often oblige the reader to reach the conclusión in certain chapters because the author does not give them in cut-and-dried fashion. Nothing wrong with this I guess, but it does require more work on the part of the reader.
All in all I found the book interesting, useful and above all, I came away with the conclusión that strategy cannot be approached in a formulaic manner ( so popular today with writers on business ), but must be worked out carefully in each situation with a very broad idea of what is to be achieved and a willingness to cope with setbacks, such that a very flexible adaptive approach is necessary.
Any review of this book would have to start out by stating that this book is really of value to those with a very limited knowledge of strategy (four star value for those). For those with a more than novice level of knowledge of the topic, gained through undergraduate study in the fields of political science, international relations, economics, and business the book would not be of great value (two or three stars). The book is basically an introductory survey of strategy in these fields. Considering the topics that it does cover, however, it is no surprise that it is very, very long.
Due to its length it does quite a good job at providing the novice a decent survey of the topic. The author, Lawrence Freedman, is a Professor in the field of international relations and this is where the book is at its strongest. In fields outside of this, however, the book is weaker. The author makes a few minor mistakes. For example, in the field of business, Dr. Freedman makes the statement that Japanese companies made use of “just in time” inventory practices to reduce carrying costs associated with holding inventory. While this has been the reason it was used in the US (and is taught with this in mind in US business schools), in Japan the reason was that limited inventory stocks forced production to halt and thus enabled any bugs in the production process to be quickly (though not very cost effectively) to be found. This was a major factor contributing to the high quality manufacturing processes in many Japanese auto manufacturers as well as in other manufacturing industries in Japan.
IN short, a very good book for those without a background in the subject but not of great value to those with such a background. One last comment, the audiobook is very well read by a David Sedaris sounding reader. It is never monotone and always interesting.