Hustle as Strategy 

Becky Morehouse

Share On  


In 1986 Amar Bhide wrote one of the most influential articles I’ve ever read. And over the years, it was this article that guided my thinking about strategy and implementation more than any other.

The title? Hustle as Strategy.1

He opens with an amazing statement that is at once counterintuitive and completely intuitive.

“The competitive scriptures almost systematically ignore the importance of hustle and energy. While they preach strategic planning, competitive strategy, and competitive advantage, they overlook the record of a surprisingly large number of very successful companies that vigorously practice a different religion. These companies don’t have long-term strategic plans with an obsessive preoccupation on rivalry.”

Let me unpack this a bit.

He is saying that most business literature and most businesses are significantly missing the point. Thus, it is not about strategic planning, competitive advantage, or marketplace intelligence. Instead, it is about an almost singular focus on doing things fast and well. He then closed his opening statement with this:

“They move fast, and they get it right…Opportunities to gain lasting advantage through blockbuster strategic moves are rare in any business. What mostly counts are vigor and nimbleness.”

Corollaries

Inherent in this larger concept of hustle as strategy are several corollaries:

  1. Agility is not just a reactive response; it also is a strategic response.2
  2. It is much, much less about management and much, much more about leadership.
  3. Hiring right is critically important to organizational success.
  4. Keep the planning team small and conversely the doing team big.
  5. Ruthlessly prioritize around your north star.
  6. Focus, Focus, Focus.
  7. Pretty good done is really, really, good.
  8. Continually strive for organizational momentum.
  9. Collaboration is the norm.
  10. Accountability is likewise expected.

Finally Bhide concludes his article with more sage advice:

“The only way to make the vision real is through superior execution. That’s the key. It’s the resulting hustle that outlasts product cycles and wins against unremitting competition.”

For instance I remember working on a strategic plan with a college in the Pacific Northwest. During one session we were talking about their sources of competitive advantage. The president, with his senior staff nodding in agreement, said that as a team they moved from idea through planning to implementation faster than any of their competitors.

I suspect that this president is an Amar Bhide fan as well.

Read Next: Just Do It

1Bhide, Amar: Hustle as Strategy, Harvard Business Review, 1986.

2Prasad, Baba:  Nimble: Make Yourself and Your Company Resilient in the Age of Constant Change.

If the idea of hustle as strategy has captured your imagination, I suggest the following five resources:

  1. Bossidy: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
  2. Bryant, Quick and Nimble: Lessons from Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation
  3. Carlisle: MacGregor, https://www.alampi.com/MacGregor.pdf
  4. Lomenick: H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry.
  5. By Wouter Aghina, Karin Ahlback, Aaron De Smet, Gerald Lackey, Michael Lurie, Monica Murarka, and Christopher Handscomb: The Five Trademarks of Nimble Organizations, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-five-trademarks-of-agile-organizations

About the Author