wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Andrew CampbellAndrew Campbell


British professor and expert in corporate strategy (pictured right).


Key books


Strategies and Styles (1987), written with Michael Goold (pictured right below)Andrew Campbell

There are three best ways of balancing the strategies of the parent company and its businesses  (“parenting styles”) each appropriate to different situations:


1. Strategic planning

Parent companies with high involvement and control over the plans and strategies of their businesses.


2. Strategic control

  • businesses control their planning and strategy.
  • the parent company co-ordinates them to achieve the organization’s overall objectives.


3. Financial control

Planning and strategic control to businesses with tight financial controls from the parent company.


Corporate-Level Strategy (1994) , written with Marcus Alexander (pictured right below) and Michael Goold

The key strategic issue in multi-business companies is “parenting advantage”, when a parent company’s strategy creates more value to customers and other stakeholders than its competitors.

To do this it must have:Andrew Campbell


1. Value creation insights

Identifying the most profitable market opportunities for its businesses.


2. Distinctive parenting characteristics

Fully exploiting business opportunities.


3. Focus on heartland businesses

These businesses create the highest value from their relationship with the parent company.



A Sense of Mission (1990), written with Marion Devine and David Young


An ideal mission statement has four parts:

  • purpose (why the organization exists).
  • values (what it believes in).
  • strategy (reflecting and influencing these values).
  • standards and behaviour (consistent with the values and strategy).



Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions (2009)


Good leaders make bad decisions because of their (or a group’s) errors (“red flag conditions”) caused by:

Misleading experiences and prejudgements

Inappropriate self-interest –putting selfish desires first before the needs of the organization.

Inappropriate emotional attachments - wrong ways to deal with people


Four “safeguards” can overcome these problems


1. Experience and data 

  • learning from experiences that are past (e.g. mistakes) and new (e.g. customer visits).
  • analysis of relevant facts and key assumptions.


2. Group debate and challenge

Debating and questioning the error in a decision group.


3. Governance

Organizational checks on the group’s decision e.g. a subcommittee and meetings with customers and other stakeholders.


4. Monitoring

Setting performance standards and making sure they are achieved e.g. linking the results of the decision to employee rewards.


Key quotes on leadership and decision making

“Good leaders make bad decisions. Even great leaders make bad decisions”.

“Errors of judgement – big or small – start in the heads of individuals”.

“Putting together a carefully chosen group of people to debate a decision is one of the most useful ways of reducing the risk of a flawed decision”.


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