Stephen Bungay has produced several breakthrough ideas which he also puts into practice with his clients. They include:
the ‘three gaps’ model of execution;
the ‘executive’s trinity’, which represents the first really new approach to leadership for over a decade;
the process of ‘briefing and backbriefing’ which reconciles top-down and bottom-up approaches to strategy and re-defines the concept of empowerment;
or the distinction between the strategic, tactical and the executional levels in organisations, which effectively overcomes the difference between strategy development and implementation.
Stephen read Modern Languages at Oxford, where he received an MA with First Class Honours. He subsequently studied for a doctorate in philosophy at Oxford and the University of Tübingen, West Germany. His early publications are on philosophical subjects.
Stephen’s business career began in 1981 when he joined The Boston Consulting Group. He worked in the London and Munich offices for a total of seventeen years. His work covered most sectors of the economy from energy and manufacturing through to retailing and service businesses, and he worked on strategy, operations and organisation in Europe, the US and Asia.
He published his first book on military history, The Most Dangerous Enemy – A History of the Battle of Britain, in 2000, and it has now become celebrated as the standard work on the subject. A second, Alamein, appeared in 2002.
In 2001 he joined the Ashridge Strategic Management Centre. He teaches executives at Ashridge Business School; Judge Business School, Cambridge; and the European School of Management and Technology in Berlin. He is also a regular guest lecturer at the UK Defence Academy at Shrivenham.
Outside Ashridge he works as an independent consultant, and is a sought after speaker at corporate conferences. Since 2004 he has also been a frequent contributor to television programmes made for a range of terrestrial and satellite broadcasters.
His major business book, The Art of Action, was published by Nicolas Brealey in 2010, and has since been translated into several languages. Whilst its main topic is strategy execution, that theme is used to lay out a coherent, holistic approach to management. It offers a cogent challenge to the legacy of Taylorism, and de-mystifies systems thinking to show how to manage a business as a complex, adaptive organism rather than as a machine.
His background in philosophy and languages, work as a historian and enormously wide-ranging experience make his approach to business uniquely broad, well-founded and rigorous. His thinking is deeply grounded in the European tradition, which he draws on and enlivens for managers seeking solutions to the problems of the present. He is the only business thinker who can draw offer inspiration by linking Helmuth von Moltke with The Spice Girls! He manages to combine the intellectual rigour of a philosopher with the pragmatism of a practicing executive and consultant, producing approaches and frameworks which are insightful but simple and immediately applicable.
By drawing on the past more deeply than any other thinker, he has placed himself at the forefront of a renaissance in European management thinking and become the clearest guide to the needs of business in the twenty first century.