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Why Smart Executives Fail: And What You Can Learn from Their Mistakes [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   336
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.3" Width: 5.4" Height: 0.6"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 25, 2004
Publisher   Portfolio Trade
Age  18
ISBN  1591840457  
EAN  9781591840459  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Identifies companies that made critical business mistakes that resulted in their downfalls soon after receiving recognition as successful empires, inviting corporate leaders to learn from the examples of others in order to avoid common vulnerabilities. Reprint.

Publishers Description
It's an all too common scenario: A great company breaks from the pack; the analysts are in love, the smiling CEO appears on the cover of "BusinessWeek" and "Fortune," the stock soars. Two years later, the company is in flames, the CEO is under attack, and the stock has tanked.

Why does this sort of thing keep happening at respectable companies like Motorola, Quaker, and Sony, all of which have very smart, hard-working senior executives? And how can you tell if it's about to happen at your own company?

"Why Smart Executives Fail" answers these and many more crucial questions. Sydney Finkelstein, a distinguished professor at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, carried out a six-year study of leadership failure, the largest of its kind. After hundreds of interviews with insiders at top companies that got into major trouble--such as GM, Mattel, and RiteAid--Finkelstein figured out the common causes behind failures in wildly different types of companies. He explains "the seven habits of spectacularly unsuccessful people" that drive smart managers to make catastrophic mistakes.

As much about psychology as it is about business, "Why Smart Executives Fail" tells the stories of more than fifty great business disasters and includes exclusive interviews with many of their leaders, in which they explain what really led to their disastrous decisions.

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More About Sydney Finkelstein

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! A professor of strategy and leadership at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, Sydney Finkelstein is a leading figure in worldwide executive education. His writing has appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Organizational Dynamics, and other leading journals.

Sydney Finkelstein has an academic affiliation as follows - Dartmouth College.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
very readable (mostly)  Apr 26, 2008
This was an excellent set of case studies and I felt the author mostly kept it readable - though on some occasions, it got a bit slow/boring. But certainly a good read for those of us who try to understand the pitfalls of power. I particularly enjoyed the section on "7 habits of highly unsuccessful people".
Solid reporting on the most colossal business failures in history  Mar 1, 2008
In Why Smart Executives Fail, Finkelstein has assembled a collection of the largest failures in business history over the last 20 years. Through interviews with current and former chief executives from companies like Motorola, J&J and Samsung, he paints a picture of the critical mistakes organizations make in management and makes recommendation of how they could have avoid these disasters. In addition to great source material, Finkelstein's style is succinct and highly readable.
Excellent white paper hidden in a 250-page book  Jul 9, 2007
There is much to praise in Finkelstein's book. Particularly effective are the stories he tells about executive or organizational hubris, the detailed case studies of slow-motion disasters that in hindsight seem unthinkable, but at the time convinced thousands (or hundreds of thousands, if you count investors and analysts) as steadiness of vision and strategy.

Less useful is the book's attempts to apply a version of scientific inquiry to those case studies in order to generate a series of rules (or at least probabilities and their corollaries). The bottom lines are, or should have been: don't assume that a history of success grants you the right to dictate the future, don't ignore front-line or market feedback, and don't assume that your IQ automatically translates into business success. Rather than stating these points, Finkelstein works a little too hard to turn each of his observations into actionable essays. That starts a cycle of repetitions and rather bland generalizations that doesn't help his reader become more effective.

Sticking to the basic stories is what works best in this book, and Finkelstein's writing, interviews and on-the-spot analysis is a strength.

Finally, having just been through a stretch in my own company where a group of highly educated and intelligent executives parachuted in from their former senior-level roles at a major global consultancy, and then proceeded to fumble and bumble and nearly destroy the organization with a 24-month string of almost laughably bad bright ideas, I kept thinking of Finkelstein's title. While those now ex-colleagues are enoying their severance checks, I hope they'll consent to being interviewed for Finkelstein's next edition.
Timely and accurate  Jul 4, 2007
Finkelstein really came through with a winner in this book. This book was recommended by a guest speaker in a B school class I was taking (she herself an executive) and I really enjoyed reading it. You hear about stories like this anecdotally from time to time but to have the whole story, background behind it and then clear and concise analysis makes it well worth the read. I would recommend this to anyone working in business.
Learning From the Failure of Others  Mar 10, 2007
I found this book to be right on the mark for answering the hard questions that form that title of this book. There is a conventional thought process that smart people in business should not fail especially when they have a remarkable track record. Smart companies should not fail for the the same reason. But we all know they do. This book give important insight in to the psychology of corporate/organizational failure due in a large part to the failure of top level management. It is definitely a must read for MBA students and should be a requirement for managers at all levels.

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