Review: The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World
Five stars for what has been my favorite read of the year, thus far.
While a history of strategic management consulting might sound like the last place to look for an engaging, rewarding and entertaining read, it is a testament to Kiechel’s skill that this book comes alive. It simultaneously traces the history of several key individuals, key consulting firms, key strategic “theories”, and key societal views towards corporations and capitalism as a whole. Kiechel brings order and continuity to what has become a very diverse and divergent field, as well as in documenting the decades-long evolution of thinking around the roles of corporations.The book begins and gains momentum through the early (and somewhat linear) decades of strategy, following World War II and subsequent global reconstruction. While the narrative threatened to become slightly mired during the later years of the 80’s and 90’s, when strategic thinking proliferated and became decidedly non-linear, Kiechel’s writing prowess step and in carry the reader through the most difficult forays down and through the side-lanes.
Most welcome is to find a modern book which stands out as “smart”, against a sea of shallow, breathless, motivational and ultimately woolly business and management literature (“hoary exhortations”, to quote a former colleague). It is in turn a reminder that strategy itself was once “smart”.