The essentials of strategy for any organization


Strategic Thinking in 3D

A Guide for National Security, Foreign Policy, and Business Professionals

224 pages; 6" x 9" ; Notes; Bibliography; Index

$29.95   $23.96
Available: May 2013
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Effective strategic thinking requires a clear understanding of one’s external environment. Each organization has a unique environment, but as Ross Harrison explains in Strategic Thinking in 3D, any environment—whether in the fields of national security, foreign policy, or business—has three dimensions: systems, opponents, and groups.

Systems strategy involves the challenge of creating leverage against opponents by shaping the external environments they rely on for sustaining their power. Opponents-based strategy requires analyzing a competitor’s capability, motivation, and strategy, assessing one’s own competitive challenges, and then developing approaches for directly confronting the opponent. Group strategy aims to mobilize political, consumer, and market groups against the power of an opponent. Strategic Thinking in 3D makes strategy “portable” for individuals who switch careers multiple times during their professional lives, moving among public, nonprofit, and private sector jobs.

Harrison uses al Qaeda’s strategy against the United States as a “capstone” case study to demonstrate how strategic success often results from the cascading effect of “wins” in all three of these dimensions. Conversely, strategic failure can come from the mutual reinforcement of “losses” across these same three dimensions. Reinforcing and integrating the concepts, Harrison shows how strategy in 3D actually works in practice.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)

ROSS HARRISON is a professor in the practice of international affairs at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and also teaches Middle East politics at the University of Pittsburgh. He has served as a corporate CEO, has been on corporate advisory boards, and has worked with an international NGO on its strategic challenges. A member of a group of colleagues (from the U.S. Army War College) that works on improving the teaching of strategy, Harrison lives in Washington, D.C.


"Professor Harrison illustrates the power of lateral thinking by exploring diverse 'external' arenas where strategy is required, while also making readers aware of the vital importance of 'internal' readiness to conduct strategy. This book deserves a wide readership in the worlds of foreign policy, university teaching, professional training, and business. Harrison’s framework can help would-be strategists everywhere."—Chester Crocker, James R. Schlesinger Professor of Strategic Studies at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and former assistant secretary of state for African affairs

"This book bridges a chasm seldom crossed, examining strategy in the realms of both business and statecraft. While conceptually rich, it more importantly offers applied tools for making and evaluating strategy. It is tremendously innovative in looking at al Qaeda from the perspective of a business model. More than intriguingly suggestive, it offers powerful insights. Ross Harrison is the kind of nimble public intellectual from whose advice the government and private sectors would benefit equally to help them read their own roadmaps."—Mark P. Lagon, professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations

"There are a large number of books available that talk about what strategy is and who the great strategists were, but very few that actually inform you directly of how to practice the art and science of strategy. Ross Harrison’s rich contribution does just that. By boiling strategy down to its multiple definitions and fundamental assumptions, he gives strategy formulation a universality that helps the practitioner better understand its parts. In exploring and developing the internal and external faces of strategy, he defines the art of the possible. His dimensions of systems, opponents, and groups are an extremely useful framework, and his skillful power of integration brings new insights to the field and furthers the understanding of both the theory and successful practice of strategy within government agencies and business organizations. This book should be on the shelf of anyone interested in strategy."—Harry R. Yarger, author of Strategy and the National Security Professional: Strategic Thinking and Strategy Formulation in the 21st Century

"Ross Harrison’s integrated view of strategy is a strong reminder to all professionals not to lose sight of the big picture while making decisions in a complex and fast moving environment. Ross’s book is a wake-up call."—Walter W. Zywottek, general partner and former member of the executive board, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

"Ross Harrison's Strategic Thinking in 3D makes the case that thinking rigorously about the idea of strategy makes it more likely that a subtle strategy, one that includes those elements needed to win, might be crafted. A good strategy, he argues, depends first upon the conceptualization and simplification of complex and messy environments: do that poorly and your chances of success are poor. In clear, simple, jargon-free prose, Harrison describes how to think about strategy, how to understand the place of resources in strategy development, and how to get and use leverage. He moves easily between the worlds of the statesman and the businessman, demonstrating convincingly that his insights are analytical rather than case specific. That said, his examples from Middle East politics—which he knows well—are particularly compelling. All in all, Harrison has produced a highly readable, incisive, and useful book for those who are interested in improving the quality of their strategic planning, whether in government or the private sector.”—Robert L. Gallucci, president of the MacArthur Corporation and former assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs

“Professor Harrison has written a first-rate book about the concept of strategy. Strategic Thinking in 3D: A Guide for National Security, Foreign Policy, and Business Professionals provides insights on how to formulate strategy and engage in strategic thinking that will prove valuable to professionals in business, government, diplomacy, and the military in grappling with issues as wide ranging as climate change, terrorism, and the Arab Spring. It should be required reading for all development professionals and practitioners.”—Shahrokh Fardoust, international consultant and former director of strategy and operations in development economics at the World Bank

"I strongly recommend this book to all strategists—it will certainly get you thinking about strategic thinking."—Michael R. Matheny, Strategos

"Anyone interested in strategy should read this book."—Lt. Col. Sean Kern, Air Force Research Institute

"Strategic Thinking in 3D is accessible, thought provoking, and pragmatic for a wide range of individuals who may wrestle with the challenges of an uncertain and competitive environment. The value in Harrison's work is not that it provides answers but asks the questions that drive leaders and their organizations to explore factors which may have strategic effect and substantive impact—then enables the crafting of viable strategies."—Charles D. Allen, Colonel (USA Retired), Parameters

"Strategic Thinking in 3D does much to expand the traditional understanding of strategic theory from a narrow subject lacking commonality between multiple fields of activity to a universal framework for achieving one's goals."—Alexander B. Gray, Naval War College Review

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