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June 13, 2008

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - The Memo to the CEO Series

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 7:27 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

The Memo to the CEO Series, Various Authors, Harvard Business School Press, $18.00, Hardcover, 2008 We recently attended Book Expo America, the national bookseller's convention, and almost every one of our meetings involved some talk of the future. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was one of the headliners, promoting his company's electronic reading device, the Kindle. Audio books look like they will follow the lead of their musical brethren and become more available digitally, and, surprisingly, will be released from at least one publisher in the popular, unprotected mp3 format. But, I wonder if there isn't something in looking at the good old paper version of books and improving it for the 21st century reader. The "Memo to the CEO" series from Harvard Business School Press seems to be a step in that direction. Over the last few months, five books have been released under this banner, with more planned for the fall. They typically run about 120 pages and easily fit in the palm of your hand. This translates into a quick read for busy businesspeople. The topics are timely and focused, ranging from how climate change affects business strategy to what companies can learn from the private equity sector. This series occupies a unique spot between the coverage you would find in a magazine article and the significantly longer treatment you would get in a traditional book. My favorite of the series so far is 5 Future Strategies You Need Right Now by George Stalk, who you may know from his previous books Hardball and Competing Against Time. For this book, Stalk went into his "files" to see what trends were forming on the horizon. The five strategies he talks about "began as faint signals, but the files on them are now sufficiently thick that the sources of advantage are not only abundantly clear, but undeniable" (3). Stalk's strategies match his very nuts-and-bolts style, and each gets its own section in the book. He implores companies to avoid the huge fixed investments needed in the past for economies of scale and explore new, more flexible production techniques. He believes companies must develop dynamic pricing structures to match the second-by-second needs of the customer, and he discusses the idea of infinite bandwidth and how best to utilize it when it arrives. I'll leave the other two strategies for you to discover in the book. The current titles in the series are:
  • Lessons from Private Equity Any Company Can Use by Orit Gadiesh and Hugh MacArthur
  • 5 Future Strategies You Need Right Now by George Stalk
  • Manage the Media: Don't Let The Media Manage You by William Holstein
  • Climate Change: What's Your Business Strategy? by Andrew Hoffman and John Woody
  • High Performance with High Integrity by Ben Heineman I really like the intent of this new series, and the content between the covers. They're likely to be hard to find on bookstore shelves, so be ready to put in a special order or find them online.

  • About Dylan Schleicher


    Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.