Strategy….from Don Corleone

I distinctly remember my first strategy class at the Warwick Business School. This professor walked into the room and posed a question – what do you think is the greatest strategy book in the world? The answers included all the usual suspects – Porter, Cohen, C.K.Pralhad, and so on.

The prof then said – you are all wrong, the greatest strategy book is The Godfather by Mario Puzo!!!! Many men (yes, mostly men) of my generation are ardent fans of this immortal book. And as soon as the professor said it, I realized that it actually is the great strategy book in the world. 

Remember, how Don Corleone handles his organization (shameful to call it a gang) during the prohibition? The Don always takes care of his people, treats them well, pays them well but most importantly takes of their families if they go to jail. Then when they are released, there is party to welcome him home, his family is happy and do not want for anything, and even the Don himself will join the party and share a glass of wine. Now that’s building loyalty!

Or remember how the Don says “Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me ” – this is just building a great network. After all, isn’t that what we all are trying to do on LinkedIn?

And then of course is the classic – it’s nothing personal, just business! We all know that it is important take out emotions out of business decisions. Don Corleone treats his enemies with respect but does not hesitate to seize the opportunity to eliminate them. That is why the Don was never confident of Sonny as his heir – too emotional, and that what gets him killed. Isn’t that what we are advised to do in decision-making – analyze pros and cons, understand data, think logically, keep calm and so on…don’t be emotional when taking business decisions, it’s not personal just business…

It is also the Don who realizes that competition is wasteful and brings together the five families. The families can then share territories, resolve problems between themselves, and so on. I admit these days this would be called a cartel and would be illegal but still I admire the Godfather for having the vision.

I could go on but I suggest that, if you haven’t already, pick up and read the book that spawned a cottage industry in Mafia books, gave people like me some great lines and also taught me a lot (really!). Of course, don’t make your rival for the corner office “an offer he can’t refuse” (“Take my offer or die”).

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