Filed under: Book & product reviews
Strategy and the Fat Smoker
David Maister, 2008
David Maister is the undisputed guru of professional services firms, and this is his greatest work yet. The premise is very simple: every professional firm has much the same vision, strategy and operating principles. Yet few firms ever deliver on these promises.
This is the metaphor of the “fat smoker”: we know what we need to do as individuals (and as organisations), but the hard part is actually doing it. Drawing on 20+ years of work in this space, Maister has seen far too many organisations struggle to do what they know they must.
The goal of this book is to explore the reasons for these failures, and to address the primarily cultural barriers that prevent the success of strategy in professional services firms. Despite the low-key and relaxed tone, this book is nothing short of revolutionary, calling for a major rethink in how we run professional firms.
Chapter by chapter, Maister works through the various aspects of strategy, culture and operation within professional firms. In each, he offers piercing insight and practical suggestions. The result is a handbook for any CEO (or senior manager) who wants to create a radically more successful (and sustainable) business.
The material in this book is drawn from articles previously published on Maister’s website. Despite being an avid follower of his blog, I had read only a few of the pieces (the price of a busy life). Crucially, each article has been carefully adapted to fit the overall narrative of the book, giving a coherent whole.
This is an easy and enjoyable read. The thoughts contained within will require more digesting. A must-read for anyone involved in running (or working in) a professional services firm.