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October 12, 2004

News & Opinion: BOOK REVIEW: Confronting Reality

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 2:35 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Confronting_reality_1
Book: Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters to Get Things Right
Authors: Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
Reviewer: johnmoore (from the Brand Autopsy blog)
Does Confronting Reality suffer from sequelitis?
I ask because a few years back Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan co-authored Execution, a business book best seller that focused on execution being THE critical element between strategic plans and their tactical outcomes. But now, the authors have come to the understanding that baking realism into a companys business plan is more important than execution in achieving effective results.
In essence, Confronting Reality is a sequel to Execution and as with most sequels ... this sequel is not near as good as the original.
A better title for this book would have been, Confronting Reality: A Guide for CEOs by CEOs as Bossidy and Charan have written a book which will appeal more to E-level business professionals of Fortune 100 companies than to aspiring entrepreneurs, high potential middle-managers, or energetic sole proprietors.
In Confronting Reality, Bossidy and Charan claim, the greatest consistent damage to businesses and their owners is the result not of poor management technique but of the failure, sometimes willful, to confront reality. And so, the authors set forth to teach executives how to bake reality into their business plans by showing them how not to misread external realities, internal realities, and financial targets.
One of the problems I have with this book is Bossidy and Charan spend too much time talking theoretically and not enough time talking tactically. (This non-MBAer could not relate to the majority of insight-through-hindsight case study examples referenced by the authors.) Another issue I have is the length of Confronting Reality. Sure it is less than 300 pages, but I think that the topic could have been covered more succinctly and with greater impact as a whiz-bang ten page Harvard Business Review article and not as book.
Now, if you make it to chapter 12 of Confronting Reality, youll discover a book inside the book. In this chapter titled, Leading for Reality, the authors take companies to task for valuing the wrong skill sets of their executives. Bossidy and Charan write,
They (executives) advance because theyre articulate. They have good presentation skills and communicate well. They have (to use a word headhunters love) heft meaning the energy and forcefulness to bull their way through opposition and prevail. Theyve got vision, perseverance, the ability to motivate and inspire, and good track records.
Such people are usually indeed talented and hardworking. They just may not have what it takes for leadership today. Theyve advanced on the basis of past performance but havent been tested for their business savvy or their ability to anticipate and deal with new and disruptive business conditions. Companies wont fully succeed in confronting reality until they make a priority of revising their leadership criteria.

Good stuff, eh? I wish the other passages in the book were as tasty as that one. But unfortunately, thats not the case. Ugh.
Hmm maybe Bossidy and Charan need to confront reality and reexamine the purpose, the direction, and the execution of Confronting Reality.
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reviewer quick bio: johnmoore has made his mark in the marketing world at Starbucks Coffee and Whole Foods Market by using creativity, big picture thinking, and liberal doses of levity to solve marketing problems.

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.