One of the most important reads I’ve worked through lately is Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin. If you can base the value of a book by the amount of underlining, starring, and dog-eared pages…this is a very valuable book!
I first discovered Roger Martin a few years ago when I tripped across The Design of Business. Easily one of my top 5 reads in the area of design-thinking, it included several key questions and concepts that I use almost daily. Very, very good stuff. So, when I saw the announcement for the upcoming release of Playing to Win…I had to have it. And I was not disappointed. Playing to Win is literally jam-packed with great content and is very transferable to what all of us do!
A.G. Lafley is the former Chairman and CEO of Proctor & Gamble and the strategic concepts in Playing to Win in many ways form the playbook that orchestrated one of the most significant business turnarounds of the last century. When Lafley was elected CEO in 2000 “most of P&G’s businesses were missing their goals, many by a wide margin.” What happened over the next decade? I found this quote to be very instructive:
“I was determined to get P&G’s strategy right. To me, right meant that P&G would focus on achievable ways to win with the consumers who mattered the most and against the very best competition. It meant leaders would make real strategic choices (identifying what they would do and not do, where they would play and not play, and how specifically they would create competitive advantage to win).”
Think about that in our context! Winning with the consumers who matter the most. See where that is going? Making strategic choices. Very helpful.
I also found Lafley’s definition of strategy very helpful: a “coordinated and integrated set of where-to-play, how-to-win, core capability, and management system choices that uniquely meet a consumer’s needs, thereby creating competitive advantage and superior value for a business.” (p. 50, Playing to Win)
Playing to Win is a fantastic read. Packed with insights and transferable concepts, it has vaulted to the top of the list of books that I recommend for strategists. If your organization needs to rethink and clarify strategy, Playing to Win is an absolute must-read.