Top 10 Strategic Planning Books
Are you looking to master the strategic planning process? Well, Frictionless has got you covered! Check out our top 10 must-read books on strategy that will guide you to develop a killer strategic plan for your business or company:
1. Strategy Safari by Henry Mintzberg, Joseph Lampel & Bruce Ahlstrand
As the first book on our list, Strategy Safari introduces readers to the concept of strategy. If you’re a beginner to business strategy, this is the book for you. Strategy Safari presents summaries of 10 different schools of thought on strategic planning:
- Design: Establishing a fit between internal capabilities and external possibilities
- Planning: Treating strategic planning as a formal process; assigning a whole department to strategic planning
- Positioning: Achieving competitiveness based on market positioning
- Entrepreneurial: Strategic planning is the job of a visionary
- Cognitive: Basing strategy on the functioning of the mind
- Learning: Learning from the mistakes made in past strategies and correcting them.
- Power: Basing strategic planning on political negotiations, coalitions, and the promotion of self-interest
- Cultural: Letting the organization’s culture influence the strategic planning process.
- Environmental: Taking inspiration from environmental factors (within which the organization is working) while developing a strategy
- Configuration: Believing in constant transformation through strategic planning
2. The Business of Platforms: Strategy in the Age of Digital Competition, Innovation and Power by Michael A. Cusumano, Annabelle Gawer & David B. Yoffie
Did you know that six of the world’s 10 most highly valued businesses are platform-based? The fast growth and scalability offered by platforms is unmatched in the current market, and organizations that offer these platforms are becoming some of the most successful businesses today.
The Business of Platforms: Strategy in the Age of Digital Competition features a trio of authors who provide rich, research-based insights on platform strategy and innovation. For managers and entrepreneurs who want to build a platform business and compete with traditional and digital competitors, this is a great read.
You will learn:
- Factors that influence whether your business will stand the test of time
- How to build strategies that enable you to harness and tame the power of a platform
- How “conventional” companies can join the fray
- How to refrain from abusing the power of the platform
3. Competitive Advantage by Michael E. Porter
Competitive Advantage is a classic business strategy book that teaches leaders how to build an advantageous position in the market using a competitive strategy plan.
The book explains that providing extra value in terms of lower prices or better products allows the business to win customers. In this context, it shares the following 3 strategies that should be implemented in order to achieve success:
Cost leadership strategy
A business using lower-cost resources can make higher profit margins, even if the market cost of its product is equal to its competitors. Businesses can also reduce their profit margins to offer products at a lower cost to attract more customers. The book’s author Michael Porter also explains the disastrous effect of price wars, which occur when multiple companies compete to be cost leaders.
The second strategy is about creating a competitive advantage by profiting on features that are truly different from the competition. Differentiating factors must be valued by the customer if the business wants to profit. The book also explains methods through which a business can differentiate its products, services, and branding.
This is the strategy of serving a niche market. It’s often employed by small businesses. The idea is to capture a target segment that is under-served or over-served by more broadly targeted businesses. You can read more about focus strategy on this article from Indeed.
The book also identifies pitfalls to avoid, such as creating a product that is only marginally better than what’s being offered by the more broadly targeted business.
If you’re interested in hearing more from Michael Porter, check out this interview with him:
4. Reality Check by Jeremy Dalton
Reality Check by Jeremy Dalton starts with explanations of AR and VR and the differences between them. We learn that AR and VR have widely different applications and which type of “reality” might make more sense for your business.
VR and AR (collectively called XR; extended reality) will become ubiquitous soon. It’s only a matter of when; Global Market Insights reports that the AR Market Size will exceed $50bn by 2024. It’s important to mention that outside of gaming, the sectors anticipated to experience the most growth in VR and AR are healthcare (38%), education (28%), workforce development (24%), manufacturing (21%), automotive (19%), marketing (16%), logistics (16%), retail (15%), and military (13%). XR’s can be used for operational tasks such as the development of hard and soft personnel skills, dealing with emergencies, etc., or offering a feature such as letting customers interact with the product.
The book also builds upon case studies, giving the reader actionable strategic insights for adopting the new technologies.
5. Lead From the Future by Josh Suskewicz & Mark W. Johnson
This book introduces the reader to the idea of thinking “future-back.” Think of it like this: If your organization has a problem, consider a future where the problem has been solved, and everyone involved in it wins. This book guides the reader on strategizing a path to achieve that solution.
Another approach to this method is imagining a future where your customers are using a radically different product. The idea isn’t about making a significant improvement in the way you’re doing things; rather, it’s about looking at them from an entirely new perspective..
The book also provides action steps on how to envision, plan, and implement breakthrough innovations, develop a visionary mindset, and to make innovation a way of life.
Lead From the Future offers practical insights about how to align your team with the vision and make your organization’s culture innovation-oriented.
6. Leadership Strategy and Tactics by Jocko Willink
Addressing the psyche of being a leader, this book is mainly geared toward people looking to improve their leadership skills.
The author, Jocko Willink, is a former U.S. Navy Seal whose experience in the field taught him valuable lessons like how business leaders can be forceful without offending people, the importance of teamwork, how to keep communication simple, and how to interact with other leaders.
The first part explains the core tenets and the foundation of leadership strategies which will help you understand what’s expected from a good leader.
The second half of the book is about how to put theory into practice, teaching you to be a good leader who strategizes and communicates well and inspires others to undertake actionable steps.
To be an effective leader, you must strike the right balance between making sure people do their job and micromanaging. Clearly, this is a challenge; as reported by the DDI world survey, “57% of employees left their job due to their manager.”
7. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne
Competition today is cutthroat, and to stay afloat, many businesses have to throw a large chunk of their profit margin overboard. This happens when a lot of businesses with the same product or service try to serve the same market.
Blue Ocean Strategy suggests a combination of both differentiation and low cost in order to open a new space in the market for companies. The book provides readers with frameworks that help the strategic planning process move beyond existing demand, create and execute new strategies, and align the team with the blue-ocean concept.
To capture or build a new market, a business must innovate. Surprisingly, according to a McKinsey report, 80% of executives agree that their business model is at risk of disruption.
When many businesses “swim” in the same ocean, the water turns bloody red. Therefore, it’s imperative that Innovative leaders move to a blue ocean that sparkles with opportunities and the possibility of rapid growth.
As simple as it sounds, expanding into an untapped market is hard in practice. The book teaches business leaders, managers, and entrepreneurs how to validate their ideas using a Strategy canvas to avoid sinking in the red ocean.
8. The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey & Jim Huling
When you’re done planning, it’s time to execute. Just like strategy, execution tactics should be based on tangible disciplines. These disciplines enable teams to stick to the plan when things become unpredictable.
The Four Disciplines of Execution covers four disciplines of execution:
Focusing on the wildly important goals
The book suggests that teams should brainstorm and decide on critical goals. Consequently, every team should spend 20% of their time per day working towards that goal; no team should have more than two critical goals.
According to a Bridges Business Consultancy survey, 67% of strategies fail due to poor implementation. Therefore, it is recommended that businesses keep the number of goals to a minimum to ensure better implementation of the strategy.
Moreover, upper management or the board of directors should not interfere with the goal-setting of their lower-level teams. Preferably, management should have the ability to veto since this process allows everyone in the organization to be involved in the goal-setting process.
Acting on the lead measures
The results of bigger goals are not readily available, but organizations can measure the results of sub-goals which can be defined as indicators of progress towards the achievement of the bigger goals.
Keeping a scoreboard
This discipline is about the practice of keeping the score of the targets achieved by the team. Such a practice improves accountability and allows team members to keep track of milestones, achievements and areas of growth.
Whereas the first three disciplines deal with the execution part, the last one focuses on maintaining momentum.
In brief, this book on strategy will provide you with strategic insights about conducting sessions in which teams can account for previous results, review their efforts and results, and plan a new competitive strategy.
9. Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt
Good Strategy Bad Strategy is a great book to read when you’ve identified the problems and created a strategy to solve them, but you’re not completely sure if your strategy is good or bad. You may be asking yourself the following questions about your strategy:
- Are you taking the right path?
- Should the strategy be based on intuition?
- What and how many factors should you include while testing the effectiveness of your strategy?
Fortunately, this book answers all of those questions.
When you know what a bad strategy is, you’ll get better at making good strategies. A 2016 Bridges Business Consultancy reports that “67% of leaders believe that their organization is good at making strategies (down from 80% in 2012).”
With the help of examples, this book illustrates the differences between good and bad strategies. For instance, bad strategies are full of fluff and have inherently bad objectives. The book also explains kernels of strategy that contribute towards making a strategy successful.
Good Strategy Bad Strategy is a must-read for every leader, manager and entrepreneur who wants to build a strong foundation in strategy-making and avoid common pitfalls.
10. Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore
This book speaks to startups, especially ones that are planning to launch a new product.
Many new products lose hype after the first few rounds of funding. As a result, this leads to the shutting down of startups that showed promise in their initial phase.
The book points out the reasons for such failures, such as prospects and investors that lose interest in the product, or products that fail to deliver on their promise.
The figurative chasm is the gap between the early adopters and the early majority in the adoption life cycle graph.
Crossing the Chasm book presents strategies that leaders can use to appeal to the early majority which often looks for the intrinsic value of the product; this is in contrast to early adopters who aggressively support new inventions.
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