Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick: Empowering Organizations to Make Bold Strategic Moves

This book challenges traditional strategic planning, advocating for data-driven, bold decisions to achieve breakthrough performance and sustainable competitive advantage.


Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick” is an insightful exploration into the world of strategic planning and management, offering a fresh perspective on how companies can break away from the average and achieve exceptional growth. Written by Chris Bradley, Martin Hirt, and Sven Smit—partners at McKinsey & Company—the book draws on extensive research and analysis to argue that the traditional approaches to strategy are too conservative and often bound by the “hockey stick” projection: modest growth followed by a sharp uptick in performance expected from strategic initiatives that rarely materialize.

The authors begin by examining the statistical evidence surrounding company performances, highlighting that truly exceptional growth is not only rare but also not guaranteed by following conventional strategic planning methods. They introduce the concept of the “power curve of economic profit” to demonstrate how companies are distributed along this curve, with a small number of firms capturing the lion’s share of economic profit.

Central to the book’s thesis is the critique of the traditional strategic planning process, which is often a victim of cognitive biases, social dynamics, and the inability to adequately predict and respond to complex, rapidly changing environments. The authors argue that for companies to move up the power curve, they must embrace a more dynamic approach to strategy that involves taking bolder moves, grounded in a rigorous understanding of their position on the curve and the landscape of opportunities and threats.

The book is rich with case studies and examples that illustrate how companies have successfully made leaps on the power curve by adopting strategies that are both bold and based on deep insights into market dynamics. The authors provide a toolkit for strategic planning that includes frameworks and methodologies for understanding the social dynamics within organizations that can hinder or help the adoption of bold strategies, assessing the risk of strategic moves, and leveraging data and analytics to inform decision-making.

“Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick” challenges leaders to think differently about strategy, urging them to move beyond the comfort zone of incrementalism and embrace the possibility of making significant, transformative strategic moves. The authors emphasize the importance of leadership, culture, and organizational alignment in executing these strategies, arguing that without the willingness to take calculated risks and push through resistance, achieving outlier performance is unlikely.

In comparing “Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick” with other works in the field, such as “Good Strategy Bad Strategy” by Richard Rumelt, it’s evident that while both books critique conventional strategic planning, Bradley, Hirt, and Smit’s work places a stronger emphasis on the empirical analysis of company performances and the importance of embracing risk as part of strategic decision-making. The book complements theoretical discussions with actionable insights, making it a valuable resource for executives, strategists, and business leaders looking to craft strategies that can lead to significant performance breakthroughs.

In conclusion, “Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick” is a compelling call to action for organizations to fundamentally rethink how they approach strategy. By combining rigorous analysis with practical guidance, the authors provide a roadmap for making bold strategic moves that can dramatically shift a company’s position on the power curve and secure a sustainable competitive advantage. For readers interested in deepening their understanding of strategic management and looking to inspire transformative change within their organizations, this book is an essential read.

For those interested in strategic transformation and innovation, here are several recommendations that align well with the themes explored in “Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick”:

  1. Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters” by Richard Rumelt – This book offers a powerful critique of contemporary strategy practices and provides insights into developing and implementing a truly effective strategy.
  2. “Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant” by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne – Focuses on the concept of creating new market spaces (blue oceans) rather than competing in overcrowded industries (red oceans).
  3. “Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works” by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin – A guide by former Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley and strategic adviser Roger Martin on creating the conditions for strategic success.
  4. “The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail” by Clayton M. Christensen – Introduces the theory of disruptive innovation and explores how companies can anticipate and adapt to revolutionary changes in their industries.
  5. Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors” by Michael E. Porter – This classic work provides frameworks for analyzing industries, competitors, and developing competitive strategies based on the five forces model.

Each of these books provides unique insights into different aspects of strategy, from innovation and competition to the execution of strategic initiatives, complementing the perspectives offered in “Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick.”