A.F. Lafley and Roger Martin are very successful men. Lafley was CEO of Proctor & Gamble. Martin, dean of a prestigious business school. Over the years, they worked together on developing answers to strategic questions. In doing so, they built up a model of handling business strategy, and their book “Playing to Win” lays out that model.
The book boils down to this
Ultimately, this is a story about choices, including the choice to create a discipline of strategic thinking and strategic practice within an organization.
So what is strategy? It is a rather young discipline, most of the time taught as management. Indeed, there is no useful definition of strategy. So no wonder that firms have difficulty employing the concept.
But it is not magical. Instead it is about making choices. More precisely, it is about making an integrated set of choices that positions the firm to create competitive advantage. This does not just happen. Nor does it become obvious in light of action. Too often, firms
- confuse strategy and vision (vision gives no path to realize what is seen)
- confuse strategy and planning (plans may implement strategy, but in themselves do not comprise a full strategic concept)
- deny that long term strategy is possible (this puts the firm in a reactive mode)
- optimize current practices (achieving efficiencies does not mean exploiting market opportunities)
- follow best practices (a recipe for sameness rather than differentiation)
The key to this is playing to win (not just playing to play). And this requires making hard choices. This book (summarized in this series) lays out a framework for how to make those choices.