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Harvard Business Review Magazine is one of the most prominent business magazines. One of its features is providing case studies on real life situations faced by people in business. The case studies are usually told in a story format, covering different management related subjects. Some of these studies were consolidated in multiple books as part of a management books series  the Harvard Business Review published, called “Management Dilemmas.”

The series comprises five books, each dealing with one aspect of management. “When your strategy stalls, what will you do?” is one of them, focusing on strategy related questions faced by managers in companies worldwide. This book handles six case studies in specific; whether to invest or not to invest in mature lines of business, to go global or not, to stick to the core competency of a company or expand out, growth as a goal by itself, cross selling, and shifting a company from being a manufacturer to a retailer. 

Each case study is presented in the book as a novel with the common players involved in these cases like the CEO’s customers, directors, and managers of a company having conversations and arguments over the pros and cons of different contemplated alternatives at a specific strategic juncture their company is at. 

At the end of each case study, a group of business experts give their own commentary and opinion about the case presented, and provide a recommendation to the company on which path they should take. The business experts include consultants, professors and authors on management-related subjects.

The work shows that there is no one universal or “correct” answer to any of the problems dealt with. A reader will see that even experts disagree on the line of action a company has to take, depending on its business philosophy and background. 

Another point made clear in the book is that each company is unique.  While the dilemmas companies face are the same, their backgrounds, situations and business environments vary greatly where what works for one company might be a disaster for another company. 

The work shows how greatly the direction of the whole company can be affected by the decisions of the executives in these workplaces. These decisions are, in turn, affected by the executives’ personalities, backgrounds, skills and experiences. Companies are also affected by the way the executives make decisions, unilaterally or in unison with others.

Going through the first pages, the book may seem a bit boring, but once you get the hang of it, as far as style of writing, it reads very well and becomes enjoyable. 

Readers can benefit in understanding their own style of management and how they personally would react if they were in the shoes of the manager in each of the six studies showcased, before reading what experts’ proposals.  After reading the case studies, forming their own opinion about all of them and reading what the experts say, the reader will further understand his own style of management, whether it is old fashioned, contemporary, conservative, or aggressive. . 

The book, published in 2005 by the Harvard Business School Press, consists of almost 200 pages in soft cover. Other books in the “Management Dilemmas” series include “When Change Comes Undone,” “When Good People Behave Badly,” “When Marketing Becomes a Minefield,” and “When People are the Problem.”

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


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