Great Strategy Reads…

When people discover I am a strategy lecturer for the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s executive education programs, they often ask me what I am reading.  Strategy is a complex, ever-evolving, disciple that necessitates mixing art and science.  It is important to keep abreast of new trends, while revisiting classical theory.

Below are three strategy books I read this year, and why I loved them.

Plan to Pivot: Agile Organizational Strategy in an Age of Complexity  by Gerry Starsia LINK


Why I Loved This Book

Starsia is a gifted strategist who has worked in academic and corporate settings.  If you are new to strategy, Part 1 of Starsia’s book is a must read, and an excellent primer on the history of strategic thinking.  Part 2 provides an overview of traditional planning models, while sharing the newest ideas for charting a course for your organization.  In particular, he offers insights into how planning is more difficult in academic settings.

In Parts 3 and 4 Starsia suggests the concepts of agile, mainstays in the design and performance improvement worlds, should be adapted by strategist to ensure strategies are flexible and relevant in the future.  The final section, Part 5, gives frameworks for implementing agile concepts into your planning process.


The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek LINK

Why I Loved This Book

Sinek expands on the work of Professor James P. Carse, who described the difference between Finite games, and Infinite games.  According to Carse, finite games have known players, fixed rules, agreed-upon objectives, winners and losers, and a defined beginning and end.  Much of strategic theory is based on this approach.  By contrast, Carse characterizes infinite games as situations where the players could be known, or unknown, rules change, and the goal is to stay in the game as long as possible.  Sinek notes that this better describes the reality of business, politics, and careers.

Sinek’s work identifies five essential practices for leaders who want to adopt an infinite mindset and strategy.  They are 1) advance a just cause; 2) build trusting teams; 3) search for a worthy rival; 4) build the capacity for existential flexibility; and 5) find the courage to lead.


Patterns of Strategy by Patrick Hoverstadt and Lucy Loh LINK

Why I Loved This Book

My final selection is for strategic planning professionals.  Colleagues who are charged with the day-to-day responsibility of designing and implementing corporate strategy.  Hoverstadt and Loh have written a master work that reframes strategy from a static competitive approach where strategy is designed and implemented, to a dynamic approach where your relationship with competitors and the environment constantly change each other.

Hoverstadt and Loh outline 80 different potential strategies across nine different categories and provide tips for implementing each.  They also provide frameworks for the strategy development process and how to put strategy into action.  A must read for strategy thought leaders.


Bottom Line

Be a life-long learner that proactively looks for new research that challenges old assumptions, and/or reinforces methods that have worked overtime.

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