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Mastering Business in Asia: Strategy for Success in Asia





Book: 'Mastering Business in Asia: Strategy for Success in Asia'

Author: John Wiley and Sons

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons

ISBN: 0-470-82137-X

Leader Values

You could be excused for fearing that Strategy for Success in Asia might be heavy reading. After all, the series title of Mastering Business in Asia carries connotations of studying for an MBA, the authors are Professors of Business Policy at the National University of Singapore, and the book feels heavy when you pick it up.

But Delios and Singh have kept their book very readable by writing with great clarity and a refreshing sense of humour. Their amusing tool for producing random, but convincing-sounding, Mission Statements sounds all too familiar in the corporate world. They also use the quirkily appropriate abbreviation PESTs to describe Political, Economic, Socio-cultural and Technological factors in the business environment.

The word “leader” does not appear in the title of Strategy for Success in Asia. But it is obvious from the first page that the authors are speaking primarily to business leaders. After deploring the fact that “Few leaders think systematically about business success”, they go on to assert that the two primary responsibilities of leaders are developing and implementing their organisation’s strategy. In fact, they suggest that these are the only useful tasks for leaders.

Of course, you may not entirely agree with that assertion. A book that aims to be “accessible to the busy reader” can’t give both sides of every question. So they correctly highlight the dangers of hands-off leaders who fail to become involved in implementing strategy – but they don’t talk about the converse problem of leaders who become too involved in implementation. The terms “delegation” and “micro-management” are not mentioned in the index.

The core focus of the book is an impressively sure-footed analysis of strategy, which they define as “how an organisation uses its competencies to satisfy its customers more effectively than its competitors in the context of its environment, to achieve its strategic intent”. This definition produces a 3Cs - competencies, customers and competitors - model of strategy. This model is then used to explain how strategy can be used to achieve success in Asia.

Pertinent case studies are used to illustrate their approach. These range from short pieces which highlight a few key points through to surprisingly detailed analyses. Seven full pages are devoted to a detailed examination of Singapore Airlines’ strategy. The chapter on strategic aspects of alliances outlines how to choose partners, and the informative case studies include an overview of the experience of international car manufacturers in forming alliances in China. Strategic aspects of making acquisitions are also covered in detail, with an examination of Pacific Century Cyberworks’ “grow by acquisition strategy” and its takeover of Hong Kong Telecom.

Delios and Singh don’t pull their punches. After asserting that “Many Asian firms have traditionally under-emphasised strategy”, they criticise multinational corporations for assuming that customers in Asia want the same products as those in the rest of the world and for focussing on high-end market segments. Along the way they also question and reject many common attitudes towards Asia – including the “Asian values” business model, the idea that Asians are harder working, and the belief that Confucian values account for Asia’s growth.

Again, you may not agree with them fully on all these points. But Strategy for Success in Asia will certainly challenge your assumptions about how to win in Asia. A thought-provoking mental workout for leaders.

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