Jo Whitehead

MA, MBA, PhD

Jo Whitehead is a Director of Ashridge Strategic Management Centre. His research is in strategic decision making, business unit strategy, corporate strategy and the role of Chief Strategy officers and their departments. Jo’s other professional interests includes running and providing management programmes and consulting to client companies.

Before joining Ashridge, Jo was a Vice President and Director of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). He worked in the London, Los Angeles and Atlanta offices and acted as BCG’s Director of Energy Research and Marketing. Jo was also Assistant Professor at London Business School, where he taught primarily on Executive Education programmes.

Jo holds an MA from Cambridge University, an MBA with High Distinction from Harvard Business School and a PhD in Strategy and Organisation from London Business School where he is currently a Fellow of the Centre for Management Development. Jo co-authored the book Think Again - Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep it From Happening to You, (Harvard Business Press, 2009). He also authored What you need to know about Strategy and co-authored Strategy for the Corporate Level.

Jo Whitehead

Publications

Making trade-offs in corporate portfolio decisions

Managers often want to own good businesses they shouldn't buy - or hold onto businesses they should sell. Here's how some companies have made these tough decisions.

Making trade-offs in corporate portfolio decisions, Andrew Campbell and Jo Whitehead. McKinsey on Finance. Number 51, Summer 2014. Perspectives on Corporate Finance and Strategy

Strategy for the Corporate Level

Almost all companies need a strategy at the corporate level that is in addition to the strategies for products or markets or business divisions. So this book is for any manager with responsibilities for multiple business divisions. It is also for any student, advisor or more junior manager who wants to understand the challenges that corporate managers face and how they make decisions.

Strategy for the Corporate Level: Where to Invest What to Cut Back How to Grow Organisations with Multiple Divisions. Andrew Campbell, Jo Whitehead, Marcus Alexander and Michael Goold, ISBN: 978-1-118-81837-4, 416 pages, April 2014, Jossey-Bass

How to avoid making bad decisions

Effective business executives are still capable of making flawed decisions which can damage their organisation. Jo Whitehead and Andrew Campbell look at the issues and suggest ways in which these can be addressed.

Whitehead, J. & Campbell, A. ICAEW.Com, Decision Making Special Report, June 2012.

Developing your Strategic Capability

A common challenge for up and coming executives is the need to broaden their skills in strategy. On the plus side, these executives are often highly experienced and have a strong intuitive understanding of certain strategic issues. However, they often lack confidence in how to participate in and lead strategic discussions. Available at: IEDP

Whitehead, J (2012) "Developing Your Strategic Capability". IEDP, May.

Developing your strategic capability

In his recent book 'What you need to know about strategy', Jo Whitehead sets out the six questions that need to be answered to come up with a good strategy. In this article, he differentiates between those questions that are easy to answer and those that require greater skill and experience. This analysis enables individuals and their trainers to devise development that will strengthen their ability to create strategy.

Whitehead, J. (2011) Developing your strategic capability, 360° The Ashridge Journal, Summer, pp. 14 - 19

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Strategy refresher

You may be facing unprecedented strategic challenges, but it's a long time since you were last in a classroom learning about strategy. This taster of Jo Whitehead's recent book 'What you need to know about strategy' will help refresh your thinking.

Whitehead, J. (2011) Strategy Refresher, Network, The Ashridge Magazine, pp. 8 - 11, Issue 6, Summer

Does your strategy get the green light?

In choosing the best strategy for your organisation, there's more to consider than just the numbers. Jo Whitehead explains the additional criteria that FD's might use for evaluating proposed strategies and backing the best.

Whitehead, J. (2011) Does your strategy get the green light?, icaew.com/fmfac, June 2011

What you need to know about strategy

The concept of business strategy was barely known or cared about before the 1970s, but these days most managers, whether they work in a small business, a not-for-profit organisation or a large company, want to know how to create strategy. Although there are many books about strategy, relatively few describe how to create it. Some describe hot new strategies or important concepts; others are filled with dubious advice and quick fixes that may do more harm than good. But practical guidance on designing strategy is in short supply. Existing textbooks present, at best, a very idiosyncratic or incomplete view of how to do so. This book aims to fill the gap, drawing on a career spent as a partner with the world’s top consulting firm and teaching strategy at major business schools and companies. It integrates accepted research and thinking, while offering simple-to-use frameworks. In addition to the tools and concepts that managers need to know, it offers advice on how to involve the right people in a stimulating and challenging process.

Whitehead, J. (2011) What you need to know about strategy, Capstone, April, ISBN 978-0-857-08101-8

Segment and Rule!

Segmentation is an important device for understanding your industry and choosing the best business strategy within it. Jo Whitehead vies a step-by-step guide to how it works.

Whitehead, J. (2011) General Strategy: Segment and Rule!, Finance and Management, September.

Avoiding Flawed Decisions

As recent business history shows, good leaders are still capable of making flawed decisions which drag their organisations down. Jo Whitehead and Andrew Campbell explain why that happens, and what finance can do to help prevent it.
Ashridge runs courses on Business Strategy.

Whitehead, J. & Campbell, A. (2010) Avoiding Flawed Decisions, Finance & Management, the monthly magazine of the ICAEW's Finance and Management Faculty, October 2010, Issue No.181, pp. 6 - 9.

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How to test your decision-making instincts

Executives should trust their gut instincts - but only when four tests are met.
Download from: McKinsey Quarterly.
Ashridge runs courses on Business Strategy.

Campbell, A. & Whitehead, J. (2010) How to test your decision-making instincts, McKinsey Quarterly, May.

How inappropriate attachments can drive good leaders to make bad decisions

To show how irrational decisions by business and governmental leaders can be the result of their inappropriate personal emotional attachments, to other people or to other things.

Finkelstein, S., Whitehead, J. & Campbell, A. (2009) How inappropriate attachments can drive good leaders to make bad decisions, Organizational Dynamics (USA), Vol. 38, No. 2, April - June.

The illusion of smart decision making: the past is not prologue

Finkelstein, S. Whitehead, J. & Campbell, A. (2009) The illusion of smart decision making: the past is not prologue, Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 30, Issue 6, pp. 36 - 43.

Think again - how good leaders can avoid bad decisions

Andrew Campbell and Jo Whitehead, of Ashridge Strategic Management Centre, provide insights from their newly published book, co-authored with Sydney Finkelstein of Tuck School, Dartmouth, USA: Think Again - Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep It From Happening to You.

Campbell, A. & Whitehead, J. (2009) Think again - how good leaders can avoid bad decisions, 360° The Ashridge Journal, Spring, pp. 6 - 11.

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Bank chiefs should have included safety checks in decision process

Campbell, A. & Whitehead, J. (2009) Bank chiefs should have included safety checks in decision process: Companies need to flag up the risk of misjudgements, The Times, February 10.

Make Better Decisions

This article continues in the book published in February 2008 by Sydney Finkelstein, Jo Whitehead & Andrew Campbell, Think Again. Visit the website here: www.thinkagain-book.com

Finkelstein, S., Whitehead, J. & Campbell, A. (2009) - Make Better Decisions

How emotional tagging can push leaders to make bad decisions

One-time Ford CEO and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was the archetypal numbers man. No human failing such as emotions could influence a decision. Like McNamara, today’s CEOs who think they’re basing their decisions only on reason are deceiving themselves – and jeopardizing the company’s viability. These authors have written a forthcoming book on the subject, and in this article they describe how leaders can understand the powerful pull that emotions have on their decisions.

Finkelstein, S., Whitehead, J. & Campbell, A. (2009) How emotional tagging can push leaders to make bad decisions, Ivey Business Journal, January/February.

Why good leaders make bad decisions

Neuroscience reveals what distorts a leader's judgment. Here's how you can keep your own judgment clear.

Campbell, A., Whitehead, J. & Finkelstein S, (2009) Why good leaders make bad decisions, Harvard Business Review, February.

Think again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep it From Happening to You

Finkelstein, S., Whitehead, J. & Campbell, A. (2009) Think again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep it From Happening to You, Harvard Business School Press.

Keeping the Lights On, Navigating Choices in European Power

Co-author (with Yvan Jansen and Christophe Brognaux) of Keeping the Lights On, Navigating Choices in European Power, published May 2003 by The Boston Consulting Group. A discussion of the forces shaping the European Power Generation industry, the challenges lying ahead and the main options and issues facing governments, industry players and customers

Whitehead, J., Jansen, Y. & Brognaux, C. (2003) Keeping the Lights On, Navigating Choices in European Power, The Boston Consulting Group, May.

Mergers and Acquisitions in European Energy Markets

The article summarizes merger activity in European utilities. A number of different business models are emerging, including Regional Giant, Merchant Powerhouse and Layer Player. The authors take a view that the Regional Giant is most likely to win out, but that it depends on the way the markets develop. Any M&A strategy needs to make strategic sense (by having a clear business model), have the financial model to pull through, and have enough optionality to adjust to changing market conditions.

Whitehead, Jo. & Ellul, E. (2001) Mergers and Acquisitions in European Energy Markets,Global Energy Business, November/December

East Asian Power Generation: The Alternative to Breakup

Popular wisdom was that power generation should be a competitive market with many power generators competing. The authors argue that this is inappropriate in South East Asia, where markets and power generators are smaller, and markets are poorly interconnected. Alternative approaches are presented.

Whitehead, J. & Bailey, C. (2000) East Asian Power Generation: The Alternative to Breakup, The Boston Consulting Group, January.