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Book Recommendation: McKinsey’s “Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick”

One of my observations from too many years in business is that companies are generally lousy at strategy. Approaches to strategy typically range from token to non-existent. Not until many quarters of sub-par performance are in the books – and every potential operational tweak has been tried – do companies realize that maybe, just maybe, they have a strategy problem.

In the start-up world, this is not surprising. The strategy is often one in the same with the company’s raison d’etre. Real changes to the strategy are called pivots. They are expensive and leave scars on the cap table. Even in post-IPO growth companies, real strategy evolution is expensive, and the strong bias is towards optimizing the current path.

Last summer, McKinsey published a new book that took a fresh and honest look at strategy practices and performance. Unlike the hundreds of other books on strategy out there, this one gets to the root cause of poor strategy and clearly illustrates the (massive) impact on returns. Their conclusions are stark and well supported. Their recommendations are direct and actionable.

For anyone playing a central role in direction-setting for a growth company, “Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick” is pure gold. Put it on your short list for strategy reads and recycle the rest.