My Favorite Strategy Books

My Favorite Strategy Books

6 augusti, 2015 Strategy ,

Summer is a great time to read, and there is still some time to read until it’s over, even here in the Nordics. Our last post covered some interesting books from different, prominent TED talkers. This time you will find a shortlist with our favorite books on strategy and strategic thinking, new and old. The selection is our own, and the texts come from Goodreads.com. Enjoy!

Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour Through The Wilds of Strategic Management, by by Henry Mintzberg, Joseph Lampel, Bruce W. Ahlstrand

”Strategy Safari, the international bestseller on strategy by leading management thinker Henry Mintzberg and his colleagues Bruce Ahlstrand and Joseph Lampel, is widely considered a classic work in the field. No other book synthesizes the entire history and evolution of strategic management in so lively and entertaining a fashion. Since the initial publication of Strategy Safari, managers, consultants, and academics all over the world have found this book an indispensable and delightful tool. Strategy Safari makes sense of a field that often seems to make no sense. Mintzberg, Ahlstrand, and Lampel pair their sweeping vision of strategy making with an authoritative catalog in which they identify ten schools of strategy that have emerged over the past four decades. Strategy Safari maps the strategic landscape and facilitates intelligent, informed strategy formation.”

Strategy: A History, by Lawrence Freedman

What is strategy, really? ”In Strategy: A History, Sir Lawrence Freedman, one of the world’s leading authorities on war and international politics, captures the vast history of strategic thinking, in a consistently engaging and insightful account of how strategy came to pervade every aspect of our lives. The core issue at the heart of strategy, the author notes, is whether it is possible to manipulate and shape our environment rather than simply become the victim of forces beyond one’s control. Time and again, Freedman demonstrates that the inherent unpredictability of this environment-subject to chance events, the efforts of opponents, the missteps of friends-provides strategy with its challenge and its drama.”

HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Strategy, by Harvard Business School Press, various authors

”Is your company spending too much time on strategy development—with too little to show for it?
If you read nothing else on strategy, read these 10 articles (featuring “What Is Strategy?” by Michael E. Porter). They have combed through hundreds of Harvard Business Review articles and selected the most important ones to help you catalyze your organization’s strategy development and execution. HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Strategy will inspire you to:

• Distinguish your company from rivals
• Clarify what your company will and won’t do
• Craft a vision for an uncertain future
• Create blue oceans of uncontested market space
• Use the Balanced Scorecard to measure your strategy
• Capture your strategy in a memorable phrase
• Make priorities explicit
• Allocate resources early
• Clarify decision rights for faster decision making”

The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs, by Cynthia Montgomery

”Are you a strategist?” That’s the first question Cynthia Montgomery asks the business owners and senior executives from all over the world who participate in her highly regarded executive education course at Harvard Business School. It’s not a question they anticipate or care much about on opening day. But by the time the program ends, they cannot imagine leading their companies to success without being—and living the role of—a strategist. The Strategist exposes all business leaders—whether they run a global enterprise or a small business—to the invaluable insights Montgomery shares with these privileged executives. By distilling the experiences and insights gleaned in the classroom, Montgomery helps leaders develop the skills and sensibilities they need to become strategists themselves. It is a difficult role, but little else one does as a leader is likely to matter more.” 

Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters, by Richard P. Rumelt

”Developing and implementing a strategy is the central task of a leader, whether the CEO at a Fortune 100 company, an entrepreneur, a church pastor, the head of a school, or a government official. Richard Rumelt shows that there has been a growing and unfortunate tendency to equate Mom-and-apple-pie values, fluffy packages of buzzwords, motivational slogans, and financial goals with “strategy.” He debunks these elements of “bad strategy” and awakens an understanding of the power of a “good strategy. Rumelt argues that the heart of a good strategy is insight—into the true nature of the situation, into the hidden power in a situation, and into an appropriate response. He shows you how insight can be cultivated with a wide variety of tools for guiding your own thinking.”

Strategy from the Outside in: Profiting from Customer Value, by George S. Day and Christine Moorman

”Shareholder value . . . core competence . . .six sigma . . . right sizing . . . These influential strategy ideas have lured many companies into a dangerous internal focus, viewing the world from the inside out. As a result, companies lose sight of the market, which leads to poor results over the long run. Inside-out thinking distracts companies from the core purpose of a business: to create and serve customers. Fulfilling that purpose can be done only by approaching strategy from the outside in. In this refreshing look at creating enduring business value, two business school professors demonstrate that companies that adopt–and fight to keep–an outside-in view focused on customer value have grown revenue, profit, and shareholder value through both boom and bust business cycles. The authors illustrate that an outside-in view requires constant vigilance and focus on four customer value imperatives: Be a customer value leader Innovate new value for customers Capitalize on the customer as an asset Capitalize on the brand as an asset.”

Tilt: Shifting Your Strategy from Products to Customers, by Niraj Dawar

”Why do your customers buy from you rather than from your competitors? If you think the answer is your superior products, think again. Products are important, of course. For decades, businesses sought competitive advantage almost exclusively in activities related to new product creation. They won by building bigger factories, by finding cheaper raw materials or labor, or by coming up with more efficient ways to move and store inventory—and by inventing exciting new products that competitors could not replicate. But these sources of competitive advantage are being irreversibly leveled by globalization and technology. Today, competitors can rapidly decipher and deploy the recipe for your product’s secret sauce and use it against you. “Upstream,” product-related advantages are rapidly eroding. This does not mean that competitive advantage is a thing of the past. Rather, its center has shifted. As marketing professor Niraj Dawar compellingly argues, advantage is now found “downstream,” where companies interact with customers in the marketplace. Tilt will help you grasp the global nature of this downstream shift and its profound implications for your strategy and your organization. With vivid examples from around the world, ranging across industries and sectors, Dawar shows how companies are reorienting their strategies around customer interactions to create and capture unique value. And he demonstrates how, unlike product-related advantage, this value is cumulative, continuously building over time.”

Strategy Maps: Converting Intangible Assets into Tangible Outcomes, by Robert S. Kaplan, David P. Norton

”More than a decade ago, Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton introduced the Balanced Scorecard, a revolutionary performance measurement system that allowed organizations to quantify intangible assets such as people, information, and customer relationships. Then, in The Strategy-Focused Organization, Kaplan and Norton showed how organizations achieved breakthrough performance with a management system that put the Balanced Scorecard into action. Now, using their ongoing research with hundreds of Balanced Scorecard adopters across the globe, the authors have created a powerful new tool–the ”strategy map”–that enables companies to describe the links between intangible assets and value creation with a clarity and precision never before possible. Kaplan and Norton argue that the most critical aspect of strategy–implementing it in a way that ensures sustained value creation–depends on managing four key internal processes: operations, customer relationships, innovation, and regulatory and social processes. The authors show how companies can use strategy maps to link those processes to desired outcomes; evaluate, measure, and improve the processes most critical to success; and target investments in human, informational, and organizational capital. Providing a visual ”aha!” for executives everywhere who can’t figure out why their strategy isn’t working, Strategy Maps is a blueprint any organization can follow to align processes, people, and information technology for superior performance.”

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works, by A.G. Lafley, Roger L. Martin

Playing to Win, a noted Wall Street Journal and Washington Postbestseller, outlines the strategic approach Lafley, in close partnership with strategic adviser Roger Martin, used to double P&G’s sales, quadruple its profits, and increase its market value by more than $100 billion when Lafley was first CEO (he led the company from 2000 to 2009). The book shows leaders in any type of organization how to guide everyday actions with larger strategic goals built around the clear, essential elements that determine business success—where to play and how to win. Lafley and Martin have created a set of five essential strategic choices that, when addressed in an integrated way, will move you ahead of your competitors. They are: (1) What is our winning aspiration? (2) Where will we play? (3) How will we win? (4) What capabilities must we have in place to win? and (5) What management systems are required to support our choices? The result is a playbook for winning. The stories of how P&G repeatedly won by applying this method to iconic brands such as Olay, Bounty, Gillette, Swiffer, and Febreze clearly illustrate how deciding on a strategic approach—and then making the right choices to support it—makes the difference between just playing the game and actually winning.”

The Game-Changer: How You Can Drive Revenue and Profit Growth with Innovation, by A.G. Lafley, Ram Charan

This is more of a general business book with focus on innovation, than a pure strategy book, but still a favorite. ”We live in a world of unprecedented change, increasing global competitiveness, and the very real threat of commoditization. Innovation in this world is the best way to win—arguably the only way to really win. Innovation is not a separate, discrete activity but the job of everyone in a leadership position and the integral, central driving force for any business that wants to grow organically and succeed on a sustained basis. How you can increase and sustain organic revenue and profit growth . . . whether you’re running an entire company or in your first management job. Through eye-opening stories A. G. Lafley and Ram Charan show how P&G and companies such as Honeywell, Nokia, LEGO, GE, HP, and DuPont have become game-changers.”

The Art of Choosing, by Sheena Iyengar

This is actually not a strategy book, and a bit of an outsider in the list. It’s rather about making personal choices. Strategy is however about making choice, which makes the book’s content and conclusions relevant to reflect upon. Especially since our choices often are far less rational than we would like to think (also in business life):

”Every day we make choices. Coke or Pepsi? Save or spend? Stay or go? Whether mundane or life-altering, these choices define us and shape our lives. Sheena Iyengar asks the difficult questions about how and why we choose: Is the desire for choice innate or bound by culture? Why do we sometimes choose against our best interests? How much control do we really have over what we choose? Sheena Iyengar’s award-winning research reveals that the answers are surprising and profound. In our world of shifting political and cultural forces, technological revolution, and interconnected commerce, our decisions have far-reaching consequences. Use THE ART OF CHOOSING as your companion and guide for the many challenges ahead.”

What are your favorites?

We would love to hear what you have enjoyed reading to explore and understand the essence and challenges of strategy and strategic thinking. Please share with us and other readers in the comment field below.

 

About the author

Elisabet Lagerstedt

Elisabet Lagerstedt

Elisabet Lagerstedt is the founder and director of Future Navigators. As a trusted advisor, consultant, and Executive Coach, she helps business leaders navigate beyond business as usual to build Better Business and co-create a better future - through insight, strategy, innovation, and transformation. Elisabet is also the author of Better Business, Better Future (2022) and Navigera in i Framtiden (2018).