The Reality Test: Still Relying on Strategy? by Robert Rowland Smith

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The Reality Test: Still Relying on Strategy? by Robert Rowland Smith

Category: Business and Finance
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Forty eight questions to make you think more deeply about your business. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: September 2013
Publisher: Profile Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1781250792

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If you are in business the chances are that you know there are areas in which you need help, or - at the very least - could improve. Sometimes it's quite difficult to quantify where you need the help, but you're probably quite sure about what you don't need and that's best summed up as too much science, jargon you don't understand or anything that you have to wade through to come up with the conclusion that you were doing it roughly right in the first place. A good starting point is a book which you can dip into as you need and which edges your thinking into areas it's not been into for a while.

Most people in business feel that they need a strategy - they'd feel naked without one or several - but the brutal truth is that no strategy survives contact with reality. Strategy is based on what has happened in the past but business is what happens in the future. The past might give you the experience to deal with what is going to happen in the future but 'strategy' is far too inflexible to cope with real life. What you need, what your business needs is a reality check and Robert Rowland Smith poses forty eight questions which prompt you to think in ways which you might not have considered.

Smith is a consultant and advisor to top companies and government bodies. He has a wealth of experience and a fund of stories with which to back his questions, all nicely anonymised so as not to cause embarrassment, but it's good to know that CEOs are not immune from the needs to be loved by someone even if it's only the consultant they've paid to sit across the desk from them. The questions are loosely grouped into four areas and most of the essays which result are only a few pages long. In truth you could spend less than fifteen minutes reading a section and then have food for a lot of thought.

The first part In the Grand Scheme of Things looks at some basic questions about a business as a whole. 'Did the Past Never Happen' should be mandatory reading for every business which has ever repeated a mistake because it didn't take the time to learn the first time round. Smith goes more deeply into the question though, and he edged me into thinking about my attitudes to our business and those who are involved in it. I found this first section which looks at business in the widest possible perspective to be the most useful.

In the second part the focus is on the marketplace. The question of whether or not you would buy what you sell was intriguing, particularly as Smith makes the point that customers can pick up on the level of commitment here. 'Is all your networking on expenses?' should prick a few consciences - and Smith goes on to point out that contrary to popular belief there is such a thing as a free lunch. The third section is entitled 'In Your Organisation' and here I was particularly taken by the question about how much dead wood you should carry. The answer is not as simple as you might think.

The final section brings your thinking back home: 'In Your Head' prompts you to looks at yourself and your motivations. The question 'how much more valuable than your staff are you' was frightening because I hadn't realised that there were such differentials. The epilogue amused me. smith says that in his early days as a consultant he would go to clients equipped with business models and tools up his sleeve, but has realised over time that what his clients most valued was straight conversation. I think we'd all agree with that.

I've given you a taster of the type of questions you'll find in the book - but there's a lot more that I haven't had the space to touch on. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.

Another business books which has impressed us recently is The 15 Essential Marketing Masterclasses for Your Small Business by Dee Blick.

Buy The Reality Test: Still Relying on Strategy? by Robert Rowland Smith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Reality Test: Still Relying on Strategy? by Robert Rowland Smith at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Reality Test: Still Relying on Strategy? by Robert Rowland Smith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Reality Test: Still Relying on Strategy? by Robert Rowland Smith at Amazon.com.


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