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by Jorge A. Vasconcellos e Sá
Prentice Hall/Financial Times © 2005, 212 pages, $29.95 (ISBN 0-273-70167-3).
Fourteen Attack and Defense Strategies for Competitive Advantage
It’s war out there in the business world, and strategy expert Jorge A. Vasconcellos e Sá has refined the principles for winning military wars into a blueprint for beating the competition in business. Presenting 14 vital strategies for gaining competitive advantage in the trenches of corporate conflicts, Vasconcellos e Sá offers organizations a concise battle plan for business triumph.
Tactically written to glean the most benefits from the metaphor of war, Strategy Moves points out that one of its primary guiding principles is “nothing is written.” Vasconcellos e Sá explains that size does not predetermine the outcome of a competition between rival companies: What truly matters is how well the rules of war are applied. He writes, “The leader who knows what strategies to carry out, when to perform them, and how to succeed in them, will win. The other leader loses.”
The rest of the principles he espouses throughout Strategy Moves revolve around these ideas: Strategic rules are timeless; luck plays a role in the outcome; and business is continuous and permanent, so there are no armistices. Because there are often more fronts in business competition than the usual military conflict, Vasconcellos e Sá explains that business strategy is more difficult than military strategy. This means that following the rules is even more important when pursuing victory for your company.
The Field of War
The first two chapters of Strategy Moves use two battles from the Zulu War against the British in South Africa to detail how large armies can lose and small armies can win. “Knowledge of the enemy is also fundamental in business,” Vasconcellos e Sá writes. He then describes how competitor information is vital for making strategic decisions, and explains how Hewlett-Packard was able to use its knowledge about its competitor Texas Instruments to formulate a winning strategy. Vasconcellos e Sá points out that as long ago as the 4th century B.C., Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War, emphasized meticulous planning based upon sound intelligence as the key to victory. To reiterate the overriding lesson of his first two chapters, Vasconcellos e Sá writes, “If we are not in control of the how, where and when of our fight, we are condemned to defeat.”
While describing how an opponent can be attacked, Vasconcellos e Sá explains that there are six ways it can be done: guerrilla, bypass, flanking, frontal attack, undifferentiated circle and differentiated circle. In business, he points out, attacking means going into something new. Of all the attack strategies he describes, Vasconcellos e Sá writes, “Guerrilla attacks stand the highest chance of success; the differentiated circle strategy is the hardest to achieve high market share.” He adds that attack strategies are harder to do well than the defense strategies.
Vasconcellos e Sá next describes eight defense strategies: signaling, creating entry barriers, global service, pre-emptive strike, blocking, counter-attack, holding the ground and withdrawal. He writes that the first four are used before a competitor attacks, blockage and counter-attacks take place simultaneously with the competitor’s move, and holding the ground and withdrawal occur after the competitor has made its move.
The rest of Strategy Moves focuses on when each strategic movement should be made, and which organizational alliances are best, as well as the lessons that can be learned from the Japanese car industry in a global age. ~
Why We Like ThIS Book
Strategy Moves offers readers an action-oriented view of strategy that sizzles with the heat of battle. By placing business strategy in the historical context of military warfare and connecting all of the analogies that go with it, Vasconcellos e Sá turns beating the competition into an exciting fight for victory where leadership and strategy play crucial roles in the outcomes of organizational conflicts.