Ha!

I admit that I got a perverse kick out of “Beware of Grand Visions and Foresight in Business,” a column by John Kay in the Financial Times (04.11). Herewith an excerpt:

Competing for the Future by C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel was one of the most influential business books of the 1990s. … The authors argued that ‘the challenge is to pierce the fog of uncertainty and develop great foresight into the whereabouts of tomorrow’s markets.’ … The claim that the constraints on success are limits of our imagination lifts our hearts. …

Hindsight is a harsh taskmaster. Some of the companies singled out in the business book of the 1980s, In Search of Excellence, such as Wang and Atari, subsequently performed badly. Still, a 2002 Fortune study reviewing the companies Tom Peters and Robert Waterman had picked two decades earlier showed that they had generated shareholder returns in excess of the Standard & Poor’s index. This is not true of the Prahalad and Hamel 12, which yielded 6.2 percent per year against 9 percent for the market as a whole. The four companies [Prahalad and Hamel] praised for ‘regenerating their strategy’ were all subsequently acquired by larger companies in the same industry. AT&T, Compaq, JPMorgan and Banker’s Trust …

I guess my perverse pleasure comes because almost every “big” management book seems to need to devote a paragraph to trashing the companies Bob and I picked. None cites even a dollop of data to support their point … which doesn’t slow them down in the least. We did indeed make our share of mistakes—but the bunch-as-a-whole have been remarkably resilient.

Ah, well …

Tom Peters posted this on April 16, 2006, in Excellence.
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