In Strategy Safari, Professor Mintzberg and his coauthors describe that most people approach strategy from one of 10 different perspectives, mostly ignoring the others. That book argues that we would be better served to integrate these 10 perspectives into a combined one. In Hidden Value, Professors OReilly and Pfeffer succeed in combining four of those perspectives in a valuable synthesis. The four that are combined here are values, which people to attract and retain, determining which core competencies to build, and the role of senior management in strategy development and implementation.
At a time when there are many excellent books out on how to find and retain top talent, this book aims to do something different. "Hiring and retaining talent is great. Building a company that creates and uses talent is even better." So after you have read all about Topgrading and other useful methods, read this book next.
The book is unusual (especially for one from Stanford professors published by Harvard Business School Press) in that it uses a structure designed to allow you to learn more than frequently occurs with straight exposition (thesis, followed by examples to support the thesis, and then a conclusion).
To do this, the authors found 8 companies that exhibited people-centered values in different industries to succeed in different ways. You are invited to peruse detailed case histories to get a sense of how these companies work. Following the eight is an example of a company with many similar approaches that was not doing as well, Cypress Semiconductor. You are invited to think through what's different. Later on, you also do mini-studies of People Express and Levi Strauss to see where they vary from the model that you have developed from the cases.
But if you do want to know what the authors think about the cases, their conclusions are summarized at the end of every chapter. Chapter 10 also looks at the overall model they discern.
They see a process whereby each of the successes starts out with a focus on people that is primarily employee centered. This focus often comes from the founder or the current CEO. The company then looks for people who share that focus. At some point, common values begin to emerge among the leadership and the rest of the company. The company continues to focus on coalescing around those values by hiring people with those values, and teaching the values to new employees. Values are reinforced everyday through communications, information flows, training, and rewards and recognition. This creates an environment of mutual trust and respect. Then the company looks at the core competencies that make sense in light of the people, values, and market opportunities and develop those core competencies The company then looks for new strategies that build on the core competencies. Senior management follows at this point in leading from and to reinforce the values.
The payoffs in the case histories relate to superior performance in key valued-added areas (which differ by case), reduced turnover of people which decreases cost of employment and improves performance further, trust and information flows that encourage useful experimentation, and consistency of focus which allows improvement to be greater and on-going.
The point of the book is that the "what" to do is pretty simple, but few people have the commitment and patience to handle the "how" to do it.