Make A Plan: Some Of The Best Books On Business Strategy

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Whether you call it a playbook, a business plan or your company vision, it is hard to accomplish anything without a strategy. A strategic plan looks at where you are and where you want to go with your business. A good one helps you decide where to spend your time and how to invest your capital.

Five Best Books On Business Strategy

If you are looking at starting a new venture or expanding your current business, you may want to consider how other companies approach strategy. There are tons of books on business strategy development. They range from textbook fare to quick-read guidebooks. Here are a few of our favorites.

Books on business strategy – Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (2007)

Do you operate by instinct or with a carefully thought out plan? Malcolm Gladwell thinks we need to trust our gut more, and he offers intriguing examples of successful people who do just that. Using examples such as Coke vs. Pepsi taste tests, ideas on what makes art “real,” and research on how we make judgments on someone by observing their dorm rooms, Gladwell creates an engaging and very readable book.

This book ultimately poses more questions than answers, but the topic of first impressions and gut reactions is a fascinating one. Since entrepreneurs can lose or gain an opportunity in the blink of an eye, this book and the idea of developing your intuitive skills are well worth your time.

Favorite Quote: “Haste makes waste. Look before you leap. Stop and think. Don’t judge a book by its cover. We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberation. We really only trust conscious decision making. Bu there are moments, particularly in times of stress, when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of the world.. .Decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.”

Books on business strategy – The Lean Startup by Eric Ries (2011)

In this book of practical business advice, Ries asserts that many entrepreneurs fail because they do not follow traditional business practices. Many start-up owners believe that those practices will “invite bureaucracy” or “stifle creativity,” according to Ries.

He says the “just do it” approach to running a start-up brings more chaos than success. In this 2011 book, Ries offers a five-step approach for entrepreneurs that is based on manufacturing principles: 1. Entrepreneurs are everywhere. 2. Entrepreneurship is management. 3. Validated learning. 4. Build, measure, learn and 5. Innovation accounting.

Favorite Quote: “We are living through an unprecedented worldwide entrepreneurial renaissance, but this opportunity is laced with peril. Because we lack a coherent management paradigm for new innovative ventures, we’re throwing our excess capacity around with wild abandon. Despite this lack of rigor, we are finding some ways to make money, but for every success there are far too many failures …What makes these failures particularly painful is not just the economic damage done to individual employees, companies and investors; they are also a colossal waste of your civilization’s most precious resources: the time, passion and skill of its people.”

Books on business strategy – The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen (2003)

You can be sailing along with a successful business and excellent customer service, and then someone else comes along who does what you do – except they do it faster, cheaper and easier. Think about what Amazon did to brick and mortar booksellers. Think about what Wal-Mart did to Sears and Montgomery Ward.

Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen argues that well-managed companies can fail because the very management strategies they have developed can prevent them from developing the new or “disruptive technology” their competitors are using. He specifically advises managers to plan for failure and to continue to look for innovations, and he gives research and information on how to do just that with your business.

Favorite Quote: “In many instances, leadership in sustaining innovations – about which information is known and for which plans can be made – is not competitively important. In such cases, technology followers do about as well as technology leaders. It is in disruptive innovations, where we know least bout the market, that there are such string first-mover advantages. This is the innovator’s dilemma.”

Books on business strategy – Playing to Win by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin (2013)

  1. G. Lafley is the former president and CEO Procter & Gamble and Roger L. Martin is Dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review and the Financial Times. Clearly, these two men know a thing or two about business strategy.

In Playing to Win, they use game and sports metaphors to examine five business strategy choices: 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 authors also offer two other tools for the strategic choice process. One is a structured methodology for analyzing your industry, customers and your position relative to your competitors. The second is what they term a “reverse engineering” process to test your potential strategies.

Favorite Quote: “Strategy needn’t be mysterious. Conceptually, it is simple and straightforward. It requires clear and hard thinking, real creativity, courage and personal leadership. But it can be done.”

Books on business strategy – Scaling Up by Verne Harnish (2014)

Verne Harnish, known for his “Growth Guy” columns, updates his successful Mastering the Rockefeller Habits book with last year’s Scaling Up. He discusses the four key areas every business owner needs to develop: people, strategy, execution and cash.

With his underlying premise that running a successful business is basically about freedom, Harnish includes his updated one-page strategic plans and his Rockefeller Habits Checklist to help you focus on what you do best.

Favorite Quote: “Setting up a business is like climbing a mountain… Those who do it create a plan. Prepared with a set of inviolable rules and a passion for the journey, they head for the summit. Along the way, they aim for a series of camps; intermediate waypoints normally marking significant changes in terrain…Those who have made such personal journeys report that it’s ultimately about staying acutely aware as you push to take just one more calculated step. It’s the same for an organization.”

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