Making it Happen: Lessons from the Frontline of Strategy Execution

Author: Rebecca Stephens

Date book discussed: 27 February 2024

Review by: Andrew Parrock

There are many books on Strategy and on Leadership. Much has been written about styles of leadership, but little about how a strategy gets transformed from an idea into concrete results by a leader.

Rebecca’s book explicitly says it is about turning a strategy into results. She does not say it is about leadership, yet excellent and effective leadership shines  from every page.

Rebecca gives us 11 real examples from the last 30 years ranging from turning a failing GP practice around in the UK National Health Service, through cutting the Gordian knot of UN humanitarian policy in the 1992-95 Bosnian Civil War, to getting the boards of UK FTSE100 companies to be 30% women and finishing off with plans to get a human to stand on the surface of Mars.

Her stories, compiled from interviews with the leaders involved, are fascinating, compelling, frustrating and illuminating. They show how a determined person (or persons) can take on seemingly insuperable odds and succeed.

There are several common threads that run through these stories, which she discovered early on in the interviews. The fact that these common threads exist is what makes her book so useful as a guide to others facing their own metaphorical mountains (one of the stories is about a remarkable mountain climber facing real mountains).

This book is easy to read, clear in the lessons it draws and is sorely needed in our current times when leadership seems to be singularly lacking.

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