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'Strategic Business Forecasting' is wittier than its title

The book is Northrop Grumman chief Ronald Sugar's first and the 16th by co-author and TRW co-founder Simon Ramo, Sugar's longtime mentor. It offers Ramo's wry commentary and Sugar's detailed analysis.

July 05, 2009|Peter Pae

In between running a $34-billion business with operations in 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman Corp. Chief Executive Ronald Sugar recently penned a business book with longtime mentor Simon Ramo, co-founder of and the "R" in TRW Corp., now part of Northrop.

The book, "Strategic Business Forecasting," is Sugar's first but Ramo's 16th. Despite its rather technical title, it can be a helpful read not just for corporate strategists but for almost anyone looking ahead.

Ramo, a Beverly Hills resident who at 96 remains an active consultant and advisor to the government and industry, said he and Sugar had talked about writing the book for a while and began collaborating last year. Ramo, considered the father of the nation's intercontinental ballistic missile system, wrote the first draft, with Sugar adding to it over time. The book came out in April.

"I've never felt so strongly about a book as I do about this one," said Ramo, who has written on subjects such as tennis, rocketry and electromagnetic fields.

Much of Ramo's witty writing style is intact, with Sugar providing detailed analysis. Ramo became legendary for capsulizing complex ideas into wry witticism.

One memorable Ramo remark doesn't appear in the book. When the nation's first ballistic missile rose about 6 inches above the launch pad before toppling over and exploding, Ramo reportedly turned to an Air Force general and said: "Well, Benny, now that we know the thing can fly, all we have to do is improve its range a bit."

The authors provide ample examples of predictions by firms that cost them dearly.

In a how-to style, the authors then lay out procedures that "have worked well for us in making useful predictions."

"Whether what you manage is a business, hospital, university department, government agency or even a symphony orchestra or dancing school, we suspect you will find it advisable to try to prepare ahead for what might happen in the future."

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peter.pae@latimes.com

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