Strategy: Simple, Specific, and a Serious Factor for Success

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works” by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin” (2013), Harvard Business Review Press.

Playing to WinAs an organizational consultant and missional leadership coach, I get to partner with churches, companies, and NGO’s at various levels in their development. Some are just starting out and are being led by visionary entrepreneurs while others are thriving in growth and on their path to fulfilling their mission. Still yet, there are organizations I’ve recently been in contact with that are struggling just to survive. In either case, all three of these organizational segments could improve their results by defining and refining their strategy for success.

In their new book, “Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works” former chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble, A.G. Lafley once again teams up with Roger L. Martin, the Dean of Rotman School of Management. Having partnered together during the turnaround of P&G in the 2000’s, the authors now present a clear and compelling step-by-step formula for creating an organizational strategy that can lead to victory in any industry.

The authors are honest in stating that “winning” in ever increasing complex world isn’t getting any easier. However, having a strategy certainly shortens the odds. They surmise that a lack of strategy will eventually kill your organization. Offering five questions for a strategic framework and two principles for thinking through the strategy, Lafley and Martin provide the tools necessarily for formulating a triumphant game plan. Essentially, the authors build upon the seminal work of Peter Drucker’s “5 Most Important Questions” and Michael Porter’s five-force analysis from “On Competition” and offer their own unique take on the choices that make a champion strategy. Recognizing the contribution of both intellectual giants listed, the authors significantly advance the discipline of strategic thinking and organizational planning that leads to action oriented results.

The five integrated questions of cascading choice are: 1) What is our winning aspiration? 2) Where will we play?  3) How will we win? 4) What capabilities must be in place? and 5) What management systems are required? While the first question determines organizational purpose and mission, the second and third inquires reflect the heart of the company and thus the core of the strategy. Answering the fourth question adequately can reveal strengths to which can be exploited. And finally the fifth leads to the type of administration, structuring, and leadership issues to be addressed. In chapter seven, “Think Through Strategy” the authors provide a serious of issues for a strategic logic flow that considers the four dimensions that are required in choosing where to play and how to win. The four dimensions to process through include the type of industry, consuming as well as channeling customers, relativeness to competitor position, and anticipating the competitor’s reaction. Chapter eight contrasts the traditional approach of generating a buy-in with the reversed engineering concept of starting with a preferred option and seeking what would have to be true for success over what is factually apparent. The described seven step process, that essentially works backward, starting with the end in mind, can then yield the most logically clear and robust condition to move ahead with the right possibility.

Full of helpful diagrams, case studies from P&G, and concluding “Dos and Don’ts” at the end of each chapter, “Playing to Win” proposes a playbook for setting a desired goal, creating a game plan, identifying the field and arena, naming the players, and coaching to win a corporate championship. Highly recommended!

2 thoughts on “Strategy: Simple, Specific, and a Serious Factor for Success

  1. This is on my wish-list. Didn’t have a chance to read it yet, but I see that’s well received by the public. Glad you enjoyed the book brother.


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