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Posted: August 21, 2013

A business story about execs who deliver

Like great mystery authors, they have it all

Todd Ordal

I’m a sucker for spy/crime/detective novels. The coolest thing is finding an author you love who has written a series of these. Many years ago, it was Robert Ludlum. In the past year, my favorite series have been by Michael Connelly (the Harry Bosch series) and Dennis Lehane (the Kenzie and Gennaro series). Smartly written with enough violence, intrigue and romantic tension to keep you up till the wee hours!

After buying many books in airports and then realizing I’d either already read them (no longer a problem with digital) or bought book five in a series of 10, I finally began looking up the series order online and starting with book one. You can get many weeks or months of enjoyment from the characters as they develop and move from one conundrum to another. A to B to C is much better than F to C to A in a book series.

One thing that fascinates me about authors such as Connelly and Lehane is their ability to write sequentially about these characters but also make the individual books so damn good! They must concisely describe the current missing child, terrorist plot or psychotic serial killer as if it were the only thing that mattered at that point, but they also weave in enough background references and character details to keep those of us who are reading A-Z appropriately interested.

Business executives face the same challenge. Keeping the strategic thread and leveraging historical strengths while addressing current problems isn’t easy. Following the strategy de jour and jumping from one shiny object to another doesn’t provide the continuity and time to execute well.

If characters in a series don’t develop, you question the author’s ability. Studly young spies who kill bad guys with their pinkie must turn into wily veterans who use their head as well as their hands.

Likewise, business leaders must bolster raw enthusiasm and intuition with systems, techniques and emotional intelligence – or they’ll be a one-hit wonder, at best.

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at,  303-527-0417 or

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