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The End of Competitive Advantage by Rita Gunther McGrath

The full title of this book by Rita Gunther McGrath is

The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business

In my review posted on Amazon.co.uk, I gave the book Two Stars.

Here is my review.

Old wine in a new bottle

I had high hopes of this book as I was interested to find out how the author could justify the argument of how the old ways of strategic planning were wrong and that she had a new play-book for dealing with a world of continuous change.

I was left disappointed.

Initially I was reminded of Richard D’Aveni’s very good book, Hypercompetition but where that had substance, this doesn’t. Next the book reminded me of Peter Senge and The Fifth Discipline. Then I found myself reminded of Hamel and Prahalad’s work on strategic intent and core competences and the importance of partnering to bring together best-in-class resources and capabilities.

One of the big ideas is that firms need to be better at managing across the life cycle of initial introduction, growth, maturity and decline but isn’t that what the Growth-Share Matrix considered, albeit superficially?

This seems to have become a rehash of the idea that success paves the way for failure through management complacency and hubris.

Old techniques like the Five Forces model and PEST analysis won’t work if they are not done with insight and imagination. Was the decline of the old Blackberries obvious when the technologies appeared that allowed the iPhone and the Android smartphones to be developed? I’d have said it was but the company was reluctant to challenge its existing products when they were still market leaders?

Should Kodak have recognised the threat of the technology that created digital photography? Again yes.

I expected new ideas but I found myself on a tour of existing strategic ideas dressed up with updated anecdotes. Anyway how sustainable were old style sustainable competitive advantages? I don’t remember anyone telling me they’d last forever or that competitors wouldn’t attack and innovate or that customer needs wouldn’t change.

I expected far more from the book.

I recommend “Your Strategy Needs A Strategy” by Martin Reeves et al which sets up a three dimensional framework for helping you to understand where classical strategy or more adaptive styles are necessary. With that framework in mind, this book may make much more sense once you narrow down the situations where its messages apply. Unfortunately I read the books in the wrong order.

There are many thousand of business books, you can see the full list of my reviews at Business Books Reviews by Paul Simister (Please click). I've also narrowed these down to a list of the 12 Best Business Books For Business Owners & Entrepreneurs (Please click).

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