Saturday, June 12, 2010

Book Report: Being Strategic by Erika Andersen

A The Elizabethtown Public Library should send me Christmas cards because I don't seem to be able to read a book in the allotted time. This generates late fees, manna from heaven for a public library. What it also does is force me to choose the books I read wisely because I don't read as many as others. In this context, Being Strategic by Erika Andersen is an odd choice.

There are a myriad of books written by consultants trying to get noticed and college professors trying to get published on the subject of strategic planning. This book was written by a consultant, which typically gives me pause. Odd since I'm a consultant.

But I'm sensing a very positive trend in banking based on conversations with bankers, the engagements we receive, and regulatory fiat. Senior executives are starting to look beyond the current crisis and the next budgeting season. They are starting to discuss competitive advantage and the bank they hope to become. Collectively, I sense we are becoming more strategic.

That is why Being Strategic is so timely. It doesn't simply provide a strategic planning model, it provides practical advice and exercises to help the reader incorporate strategic thinking into everyday decision making. With so many tactical challenges facing us, senior leaders in banking (general term for banks, thrifts, cu's) need to focus more than ever on the bank we want to become.

This book provides an excellent and simple method to transform your leadership team from a group of tacticians to tacticians with a purpose... To make daily progress moving your bank to a relevant future.

Here is what I like about the book:

1. Discusses the "vision thing" in common sense terms. Before you chart your course, decide your hoped-for future.

2. Provides many examples of the author's approach as it can be applied to the reader's day-to-day routine. Even the Welsh castle story clarified theory, although I would rethink the authentic Welsh names which were hard for my internal voice to pronounce.

3. Had a very helpful segment on facilitating a strategy session. Although this is what I do for a living, I could always do it better.

What I didn't like about this book:

1. It was written by a consultant. Partnering with a client would have highlighted the challenges of being strategic and brought more credibility to the book.

However, I don't want this to diminish the value of the book to a great degree. The author clearly has a great deal of experience in the subject matter. I think if all bank senior leaders adopted the approach in Being Strategic, we would be far better prepared for the challenges ahead.

- Jeff

Book Report note: I will occasionally read books that I believe are relevant to the banking industry. To help you determine if the book is a worthwhile read for your purposes, I will review them here. My mother said if I did not have something nice to say about someone, then don’t say it. In that vein, I will only review books that I perceive to be a “B” grade or better. Disclosure: I will typically have the reviewed book on my bookshelf on the right margin of this blog. If you click on any book on the shelf and buy it, I receive a small commission; typically not enough to buy a Starbucks skinny decaf latte with a sugar-free caramel shot, but perhaps enough to buy a small coffee at Wawa.


  1. Jeff -

    What a nice review! So glad you enjoyed the book (mostly ) and found it useful...


  2. Erika,

    Yours is the first book to get an "A" grade from me, with the exception of my 11 year-old daughter's book (may have been bias in my review). I am internally wired to always find something constructive to say. But I thoroughly enjoyed the read and hope my blog readers give it a go.

    - Jeff