Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship
London Business School

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Monkey Story

Chapter 1: Management Happens

  • Forced to be stupid
  • Collective inertia – if you don’t join them, you can beat them!
  • Pharma – the devil is in the detailing
  • The Abilene Paradox
  • Same same but different
  • “Selection bias”
  • Numbers and strategy – do they mix?
  • Deciding stuff – that’s the easy bit
  • How well do you know your company? (my guess is not very well at all…)
  • How to make a compelling corporate strategy in six easy steps
  • Wanna play Strategy? Get a board game
  • “Framing contests”: What really happens in strategy-making meetings
  • It looks like we don’t have a strategy…

Chapter 2: The Success Trap

  • Why good companies go bad
  • Tunnel vision – “in the end, there is only flux”
  • The lcarus paradox
  • Operation Market garden
  • Mental models – let’s all think within the same box
  • A Creosote bush: “exploitation” drives out “exploration”
  • A bitter pill
  • Framing something as a threat or an opportunity dramatically alters what we choose
  • In a downturn, manage your revenues, not your costs
  • In a crisis, innovate
  • Is your company brave enough to survive?

Chapter 3: The Urge to Conquer

  • How big is your yam? (not that it matters)
  • Deal-eager executives – tribal instincts
  • When acquisitions take over
  • “Time compression diseconomies” – too much, too fast
  • Seeds and fertilizer – how to build a firm
  • “I’ve won… I’ve won!”
  • Most acquisitions fail – really!
  • CEOs, marriage, mergers, geriatric millionaires and blushing brides
  • “Heerlijk, helder, Heineken”
  • Toads and acquisitions – where does CEO “hubris” come from?

Chapter 4: Gods & Villains

  • Narcissus versus Humble Bloke – and the winner is..?
  • Are overconfident CEOs born or made?
  • Successful managers – incompetent for sure
  • Hang the hero
  • Celebrity CEOs and the burden of expectations
  • Managers and leaders: Are they different?
  • Executives: super-human after all…
  • “Over the hill and far away, top managers are here to stay”
  • Chief Story Teller
  • Women on top

Chapter 5: Liaisons & Intrigues

  • Analysts, astrologers and lemmings – three of a kind?
  • Conflicts of interest – do analysts rate their bank’s clients stock more favourably?
  • Banks’ blurry categorisations – have your cake and eat it too
  • Analysts rule the waves (whether we like it or not)
  • How to tame an analyst
  • Sirens and investment bankers – birds of a feather
  • Advice or influence? Why firms ask government officials as directors
  • Boards of directors: cliques and elites
  • Board-cloning – a rewarding habit
  • Boardroom friends
  • CEOs and their stock options… (oh please…)
  • Too hot to handle: Explaining excessive top management remuneration
  • How to justify paying top managers too much
  • Stock options, risk, and manipulations
  • CEOs seek external advice – if you pay them for it…
  • Dirty laundry: Who is hiding the bad stuff

Chapter 6: Myths in Management

  • Say you will – that’ll do
  • Right again! – managers and their self-fulfilling prophecies
  • Your expectations manage you
  • “Reverse causality” – sorry, but life’s not that simple
  • Eating uncle Ed – don’t worry, it’s called downsizing
  • Does downsizing work, ever?
  • Who can downsize without detriment?
  • What management bandwagons bring
  • Remember this one: “Total Quality Management”?
  • ISO9000 makes you reliable, myopic, efficient, and dull – and unable to invent post-it notes
  • How bad practice prevails
  • Can we please stop saying that the market is efficient
  • Management consultants – happy slapping
  • Management consultants – pin-striped pigeons
  • Star knowledge workers – you really should not pay them that much, you know
  • Patent sharks
  • Information overload – and how to deal with it (if you’re the one loading)
  • When knowledge hurts
  • R&D – it’s a steal?

Chapter 7: Making Far-reaching Decisions (when you can’t see a fricking thing ahead of you)

  • Binoculars in the mist
  • The Red Queen
  • “Today’s fast-changing business environment”? – same as it ever was
  • Is innovation over-rated?
  • Customers…? Ah, forget about them
  • Means & ends; profits & innovation
  • It is ok to get lucky – even for a top manager
  • Getting lucky – fortune favors the prepared firm
  • Sometimes it is about knowing when not to decide
  • Retaining your ability to make money? Casual ambiguity’s the answer
  • Company cloning – how to change a winning formula
  • When to fire your M&A consultant
  • Not all trouble is trouble
  • Change for change’s sake
  • Now change it again!
  • “A serial changer”…
  • “Innovation networks” and the size of the pie
  • Spinning clients – the McKinsey effect

Chapter 8: A Rock or a Soft Place?

  • The hidden cost of equity
  • “Shareholder value orientation” – now, where did that come from?!
  • Who should come first? Shareholders? Are you sure..?
  • Human nature: Self-interested bastard or community-builder?
  • Down-turn Calcutta firms
  • Pay inequality – good or bad for team performance?
  • What really caused the 2008 banking crisis?
  • The third sin
  • “Work-family initiatives”?! That’s rather soft and fluffy isn’t it…
  • Corporate social responsibility – nice, but does it earn you any money?
  • Taking care: companies make love and money (if their shareholders let them)

Epilogue: The Emperor’s New Clothes


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