Why Smart Executives Fail

by Sydney Finkelstein

There's a scenario that keeps repeating itself in today's business climate. A company is voted one of the most admired in the world. Then three or four years later, it's in dire financial trouble. A CEO is celebrated on the covers of Business Week, Forbes, and Fortune. Soon after, the company is in the midst of a disastrous merger or some other fiasco.

What goes wrong in these cases? Usually it seems that top management made some incredibly stupid mistake. But the people responsible are almost always remarkably intelligent and usually have terrific track records. Just as puzzling as the fact that brilliant managers can make bad mistakes is the way they so often magnify the damage. Once a company has made a serious misstep, it often seems as though it can't do anything right. How does this happen? Instead of rectifying their mistakes, why do business leaders regularly make them worse?

To answer these questions, Sydney Finkelstein has carried out the largest research program ever devoted to corporate mistakes and failures. In Why Smart Executives Fail, he and his research team uncover—with startling clarity and unassailable documentation—the causes regularly responsible for major business breakdowns. Why Smart Executives Fail relates the stories of great business disasters and demonstrates that there are specific, identifiable ways in which many businesses regularly make themselves vulnerable to failure. The result is a truly indispensable, practical, must-read book that explains the mechanics of business failure, how to avoid them, and what to do if they happen.

Why Smart Executives Fail