Best Strategy Books

Strategy is not a buzzword, but a systematic approach to improving any organization. The following books were carefully chosen for their proven principles and processes. Strategy includes who do we serve, what's our logical position, and what's our emotional brand?

Strategy means making clear cut choices about how to compete. You cannot be everything to everybody. - Jack Welch  

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Playing to Win book

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works

This book was written by A.G. Lafley, former Chairman and CEO of Proctor & Gamble, and Roger L. Martin the Dean of Rotman School of Management. The book uses examples across P&G's diverse businesses and has bullet point highlights near the end of the chapters. The book is "a story about choices, including the choice to create a discipline of strategic thinking and strategic practice within an organization." Strategy is an integrated set of choices that uniquely positions the organization.  

The book warns of a bias to action and not thinking, leading to considering strategy as a vision or a plan. The five choices that need to be thought through for an effective strategy include;  

  A winning aspiration Where to play How to win Core capabilities Management systems

The winning aspiration clearly defines what winning looks like. Where to play choices include geography, products, customer segments, distribution channels, and vertical stages of production (where along the value chain). How to win choices should be based on the where to play choices. How to win choices fall into low cost or differentiation. Brainstorm the organizations strengths and what it does well, then categorize them and choose the core capabilities from this list. Build systems and measures that show short-term and long-term performance based on strategic choices.  

Get Playing to Win by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin

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Blue Ocean Strategy book

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Marketspace and Make the Competition Irrelevant

This book has a great practical approach to developing a unique position among the competition. It involves recording the primary ways an organization competes with others. It has sold over 3.5 million copies and became an bestseller across five continents.  

The core of the book is the strategy canvas that records a value curve for your organization and the competition. The horizontal axis records many specific factors of competition in the industry. The value curve is based on how much value an organization provides for each specific competitive factor.  

The book takes you through the "four actions framework," which is a systematic approach to raise or reduce factors and create or eliminate factors.  

It then brings you on a journey to reimagine market boundaries through the "six paths." These include looking across industries, looking across strategic groups, redefine the buyer group, looking across to complementary products and services, and rethinking the functional-emotional orientation of its industry.  

Get Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Good To Great book

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't

This book is based on five years of researching how companies went from good and relatively unremarkable to great and beating the general stock market cumulative returns by at least three times, over the course of fifteen years. The concepts of this book have been used to help a nonprofit become very successful. While all organizations studied in the book had strategies the following understandings and actions set apart the great companies.  

He describes the “hedgehog” concept of uncovering what the organization is passionate about, what it can be the best at, and what drives it’s economic engine. The economic engine is finding that one formula that has the largest impact on revenue (profit per x or in the nonprofit sector, cashflow per x).  

He explains the flywheel with key activities that drive sales. The discipline to continue with the hedgehog concept through a buildup period that eventually created breakthrough.  

Lastly a good culture with a Level 5 leader who has personal humility and professional will that drives them to put the organization first. With a culture of discipline... “disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who then take disciplined action.” They “confront the brutal facts but never lose faith.”  

Get Good to Great by Jim Collins

Competitive Strategy

Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors 

The author Michael E. Porter is a professor at the Harvard Business School and was a founder of The Monitor Group consulting firm that became part of Deloitte, and a founder of FSG. This book is a great corporate strategy book that explains the five competitive forces, often referred to as forces of profitability. The five competitive forces are barriers to entry, substitutions, customer leverage, supplier leverage, and competition.  

The book covers structural analysis of industries, generic strategies, competitor analysis, many types of market signals, and competitive moves.  

It also covers strategies for specific situations like an emerging industry, fragmented industry, declining, and global industry.  

Get Competitive Strategy by Michael E. Porter

Competitive Advantage book

Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance

"The essential companion to Competitive Strategy. While Competitive Strategy concentrates on the industry, Competitive Advantage concentrates on the firm."  

It includes the value chain of operational activities and support activities. A strategy is a consistent configuration of activities that makes a company different from competition. Activities are the basic tool for building competitive advantage.  

It explains ways to differ from competition based on the activities in the value chain. The value chain includes inbound logistic, operations, outbound logistics, marketing and sales, and service. The support activities can include HR, tech, procurement.  

Get Competitive Advantage by Michael E. Porter

The 4 Disciplines of Execution book

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals

Alright, this book is not about strategy, it's the best book I've read on accomplishing strategy. The original research for this book is based on “nearly thirteen thousand people internationally across seventeen different industry groups.” “Over the years, we’ve added to this foundation by surveying almost three-hundred thousand leaders and team members”… “But the real insights did not come from research. They came from working with people like you in over fifteen hundred implementations.” 

1. Focus on the wildly important. This is the number one goal. 2. Act on the lead measures. These are actions predictive of future results, not past statistics. 3. Keep a compelling scoreboard. Just make sure it doesn't undermine the trust. 4. Create a cadence of accountability. 

“Instead of accountability to a broad outcome you can’t influence, it’s accountability to a weekly commitment that you yourself made and that is within your power to keep.”  

Get The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling

More great book lists

Interested in the best digital marketing books, including the classic Building a StoryBrand?

How about the best social media books, including some great overall social media books and good reads for specific Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or LinkedIn marketing success. 

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