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Book list #3 – The Core of Strategy

This book list is about three books that are related to the very core of strategy. They introduce the background of strategic management studies, the difference between good and bad strategy and the winning concept of successful strategy. I can recommend all these three books for students of strategic management and people who are interested in strategic decision-making in business.

The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World

The book by Walter Kiechel leads the reader into the history of business strategy. This book illustrates how strategy became relevant as a field of business and academic research. Kiechel states four men as responsible for the creation of business strategy as we know it, namely Bruce Henderson from Boston Consulting Group, Bill Bain from Bain & Co., Fred Gluck from McKinsey & Co. and not surprisingly professor Michael Porter. The work and views of these four men are shown in this book as a path to the importance of business strategy.

 

I found the Lords of Strategy as a very nice and interesting read, especially reading it after the consulting case books. This book has a strong focus on consultancy and also the academic side of strategy, thus giving a nice combination of the best parts of practice and theory. What I really liked was the rhythm and content of the book, which enabled to keep the reader hooked.

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters

This book by Richard Rumelt focuses on the differences between good and bad strategy. Rumelt ruthlessly emphasizes the difference and harshly criticizes businesses, organizations and people responsible for not knowing strategy and creating strategies that are bad. Rumelt shows with many examples how the lack of knowledge on strategy can lead to very poor outcomes, and Rumelt illustrates that good strategy is actually rare.

I liked the honest and hard approach of Rumelt, and many views and examples made a lot of sense. This book is not very lightweight, meaning that it might require more thinking and focusing by the reader, but the content is actually relatively simple. The reader can truly see the various cases of bad strategy and reflect on them on studies, business and everyday life.

 

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works

Playing to Win by A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin tells the story of P&G as a case of strategy. A.G. Lafley, the main author of this book, was the CEO of P&G who led the company to a remarkable success. The book emphasizes the strategic reasoning of where to play and how to win as concepts for the realized success.

This book is the most practical of this list. At the end of each chapter, there is a list of guidelines for practical choices and in general the tone is very practical, although theoretical reasoning is also present. Playing to Win is a great choice for a reader with an interest in setting a simple  strategic guideline and implementing it to win. In addition, having an interest in P&G as a company makes this read more interesting, although the guidelines and concept are externally valid.

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