William Pietersen

Reinventing Strategy: Using Strategic Learning to Create and Sustain Breakthrough Performance


"Business strategy is broken" - that's the theme of corporate coach Willie Pietersen in his first book, Reinventing Strategy. In a world of accelerating, unpredictable change, where the traditional approaches to strategy no longer work, what companies need are practical new tools for achieving continuous adaptation and renewal.

Written particularly for managers in established companies who must compete in the new economy, Reinventing Strategy: Using Strategic Learning to Create and Sustain Breakthrough Performance (Wiley, April 19, 2002, $29.95 Cloth) begins, "There is no more powerful tool for the development of a successful business strategy than superior insight." Pietersen has developed a process for generating such insight repeatedly and transforming it into winning strategy. The process is called Strategic Learning, and Reinventing Strategy shows how every business can begin to use it.

Strategic Learning has been offered in numerous executive programs by Columbia Business School and applied at companies like Ericsson, SAP, Sony, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, and Chubb Insurance. The Sony Corporation credits Strategic Learning with turning around a floundering division. And many other organizations - from the Institute for the Future, the research-based think-tank in Menlo Park, California (where Pietersen is Chairman) to a non-profit youth orchestra, an urban housing program, and a Florida drug-rehabilitation project - have applied it to their needs.

How does it work? Strategic Learning integrates strategy and leadership in a mutually-reinforcing system. Indeed, Pietersen - virtually alone among management experts - maintains that strategy and leadership are fundamentally inseparable. He explains, "The central challenge facing business leaders today is to create and lead an adaptive enterprise - one which is capable of generating winning strategies on a continuous basis. To do this, companies must be able to master what I call the five killer competencies." They are:

- Insight: The ability to make sense of the changing environment
- Focus: The ability to create an intense focus on the right things
- Alignment: The ability to mobilize the entire organization behind this focus
- Execution: The ability to implement fast
- Renewal: The ability to do these things over and over without ever stopping

The unique value of Strategic Learning is that it goes beyond mere rhetoric and provides a practical leadership process for harnessing these competencies, thereby enabling companies to become truly adaptive.

As a corporate executive, author Willie Pietersen led multi-billion-dollar divisions at such global giants as Sterling Winthrop, Seagram, and Unilever. He has conducted business everywhere from New York business suites to the Japanese orange juice market, a Chicago margarine plant and a furniture factory in Poland. In each of his corporate assignments, Pietersen achieved notable success.

The pages of Reinventing Strategy are enriched with over one hundred case studies and anecdotes drawn from Pietersen's career and from a broad array of companies. Few have been seen in print before. They include:

- How Tropicana learned that the giant glass-bottle factory on which they prided themselves was actually draining profits from the rest of their business - and what they did about it
- How Sterling Winthrop, on Pietersen's watch, stole the emerging market for pain remedies in Russia out from under the noses of Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol - by using a blindingly simple merchandising strategy borrowed from a shrewd Canadian expert
- How Sony Media Solutions discovered - less than halfway through the Strategic Learning process - that their profit problems were apparently "solving themselves," thanks to what Pietersen calls "the magic of focus."

Throughout Reinventing Strategy, Pietersen combines theory and practice to explain what works, what doesn't, and why, offering a fresh, proven approach to the dual challenges of leadership and strategy. The result is an engaging book that is as compelling to read as it is practical to use.

Exact Citation:
Pietersen, Willie. Reinventing Strategy: Using Strategic Learning to Create and Sustain Breakthrough Performance. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2002.
Place: New York
Date: 2002