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Playing To Win by AG Lafley and Roger Martin

The full title of this book by AG Lafley and Roger Martin is

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works“.

In my review posted on Amazon.co.uk, I gave the book a rating of Four Stars. This means it is Good and Well Worth Reading.

Here is my book review.

Nice overview of strategy dominated by examples from Procter & Gamble

This takes a simple look at developing strategy based around answering five (not so easy) questions:

1) What do you want to achieve?
2) Where are you going to play?
3) How can you win?
4) How to improve/develop the core capabilities needed to win?
5) What management system is needed to make sure you win and to keep everything aligned?

I think it’s excellent that this approach can be summarised down to one piece of paper with these answers since it helps to focus on the dynamics on strategy and the importance that the answers fit together. As one answer develops, it can mean changing the previous answers so that the strategic intention evolves through various iterative loops.

To help you to answer the questions, the book introduces the strategic logic flow analysis which starts with looking at the environment and customer segments, then what the customers and channels value, then at internal capabilities and costs before considering how competitors will react.

Again it’s recognised that answers in one part may need you to go back to an earlier stage. Again the authors are reinforcing the idea that strategy is not a simple step 1, step 2, step 3… here’s the answer process. This I applaud. Too often I see strategic processes that look linear but I seem to find myself looping back as new knowledge emerges.

The book contains plenty of long examples from Proctor & Gamble, the huge fmcg company and this is both a strength and a weakness.

First, the approach is grounded in the real world and some readers may be aware of the history of some of the brands from their own experiences as buyers.

Unfortunately others will find it hard to relate to P&G and their resources and capabilities for customer research, marketing communications, channel distribution, innovation and economies of scale. That the group got things wrong and they were then put right is both interesting and tiresome. I became weary of being told just how good and successful P&G has become.

There is also the issue that good strategy seems obvious in hindsight but it may be much less clear in terms of choosing one option or another before the decisions are made. I suspect that there is also selection bias in the examples used by looking at the brands that had a good turnaround story to tell.

If you want an overview of competitive strategy because you’re going to be involved in some strategy planning sessions, then I think this is a good book for keeping the big questions in mind.

If you’re a business owner, I also think it is well worth reading to allow you to focus on the big issues. You will need more than this book to feel comfortable that you’re answering the questions in a way that will stand up to the test provided by the real world.

I give it a four star recommendation – well worth reading but not essential.

It is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

There are many thousand of business books, you can see the full list of my reviews at Business Books Reviews by Paul Simister (Please click). I've also narrowed these down to a list of the 12 Best Business Books For Business Owners & Entrepreneurs (Please click).

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