Best Books on Business Strategy
REVIEWED BY BI STAFF | PUBLISHED ON OCT. 25, 2019 | 23 MIN READ
A winning business strategy is a major project that needs to be carefully examined and implemented within a limited time, absorbing resources and requires talent. Building a winning business strategy is the first step in being competitive and keeping a competitive advantage. Sadly, many organizations spend much time and money building a business strategy but fail at the implementation. The best books on business strategy are compiled to give you an edge.
What is Business Strategy?
An organization’s business strategy may be understood as the set of policies, plans, and goals for the business to compete successfully. The business strategy specifies what the business’s competitive advantage will entail and how this competitiveness will be enabled for achievement and success. There are many components and factors that drive the success of a business. Globalization, innovation, and technology are a few forces that impact businesses both negatively and positively. Business strategy can be seen as competitive moves or the ability to remain ahead in a competitive advantage. These actions and decisions are not to be taken lightly. The strategy that you put in place today may either enable the success of the business or potentially bring it to failure. The best books on business strategy is a list compiled to help the reader and student develope their knowledge on the subject matter.
The Best Books on Business Strategy
1 – Business Strategy | By Brian Tracy
Brian Tracy’s book Business Strategy: The Brian Tracy Success Library explains why it is so critical to have a well-developed business strategy. In most markets, 20% of businesses make 80% of the profits. Understanding why this is so is due to understanding business strategy. Tracy outlines a business strategy in comprehensive analyzes through the success of Alexander the Great’s use of strategy. Alexander the Great mobilized 50,000 men to defeat a million-man Persian army in the 300s BC. Tracy doesn’t focus solely on the historical context but the strategy that enables Alexander the Great to meet his success. Tracy’s book is an in-depth manual of business strategists and whose organizations need such strategic planning.
In this book, you can expect to learn; Alexander the Great’s strategy that enabled him to defeat Persia’s army of 1 million men with only 50,000 men; learn the seven “principles of effective strategy;” learn to use the “four strategic planning principle;” learn how to implement and develop business strategy of the five-phase process: “data-collection, formulation, project planning, implementation, and monitoring; understand why your business strategy must reflect your business values; and even know that sometimes the best strategy is to stop.
Quotes from the book:
“The most successful men and women in the world seem to be those whose values are clear to them. They refuse to compromise them for any short-term gain or advantage.”
“One management skill is always the most valuable, and that is the ability to develop a clear, workable strategic plan that gives you a competitive advantage in your marketplace.”
“Strategic planning starts with knowing where you are now, envisioning your ideal future, then focusing on what needs to change in the present to create the future.”
“Peter Drucker once said that, even when a business is starting out at a kitchen table, if the business does not dream of world leadership, it will never be a big success.”
2 – Business Strategy | By Jeremy Kourdi
In Jeremy Kourdi’s Business Strategy: A Guide to Effective Decision-Making, Kourdi analyses data, and material that might be covered in a Masters in Business Administration college course on business strategy. The book is equipped with 13 chapters, divided into two sections. The first part deals with the factors on business strategy and the ability to compete, grow, and function. The second part deals with the analytical tools and metrics that develop your business. The topics included in this book are broad, and not going deep in each particular subject, however, deep enough to have solid impact. If you find yourself lured into a subject, you may need to seek a deeper understanding elsewhere.
Here are a few things you can expect to learn from this book; the SWOT analysis and Michael Porter’s five forces are important because they work; understand what your business knows and resides; lead your employees the way you desire to be led; leadership says a lot about yourself; understanding scenarios will help you prepare and may affect your business’s future; know your competitive environment; and also learn why most poor decisions are traced by to bad decision-making.
Quotes from the book:
“Ideas are no respecters of status or salary…Excellent ideas can be found in unexpe3cte places: junior members of staff, competitors, other industries or a historical legend.”
“Understanding customers, market developments and technology leads to customer-focused decisions and these, in turn, provide the most certain route to profitability.”
“The art of strategic decision making lies in both how we react to what we do not know and how we react to clearly defined situations.”
“The success or failure of a decision frequently depends on the delegation process.”
3- Strategy Moves | By Jorge A. Vasconcellos e Sá
War and battle and the strategies may be applied to business. Did General Douglas MacArthur know anything about business? How much did Napoleon know and his strategies impact the business world? Jorge A. Vasconcellos e Sá writes in his distinctive and deep book called Strategy Moves: 14 Complete Attack and Defense Strategies for Business, is a detailed rule book on the connection between war and business, at least, only the strategies of the game. Vasconcellos e Sá has insights, impact, and direction on business strategy that will increase the reader’s chances of defeating any competition and obstacle.
Some of the concepts you’ll learn in this book are; intelligence is as important as a muscle; partial victories are good, you don’t have to be the top dog to earn the profits; luck is important in business, and comes in a direct result of planning; the rules of war can often be used in business strategy; learn why the best offense is a good defense; learn why you must be committed or don’t even bother trying; and even learn the six “strategic movements,” “guerilla, bypass, flanking, frontal attack, undifferentiated circle, and differentiated circle.”
Quotes from the book:
“Finally, these rules are of utmost importance since in business there are no armistices – business is continuous and permanent. And in war there are usually only two sides – in business, there are many more. So business strategy, we argue, is more difficult than military strategy.”
“One can be small and win; equally, one can be large and lose. It all depends on how well one applies the rules of war.”
“If we are not in control of the how, where and when of our fight, we are condemned to defeat.”
“When considering a strategic move, the burden of proof lies with the decision to attack.”
4 – Diversification Strategy | By Graham Kenny
Running more than one business can be more dangerous than running just one. However, with proper management, diversification in business can increase great investment returns. Author Graham Kenny whose book Diversification Strategy: How to Grow a Business by Diversifying Successfully lists seven steps that “successful diversifiers” implement. Kenny’s style of writing gives insights with deep real-life examples. Although the book doesn’t go into finer details to apply for Kenny’s diversification program. The book is highly recommended to business managers who desire to access diversification strategies.
Expect to take-away concepts, such as; organizations that fail to diversity leave their shareholders emotionally poor; learn how successful diversification organizations follow these seven steps; (1) centralize headquarters to support each division, (2) enable capable managers who can lead their division, (3) learn why successful diversified organizations understand concepts as return on equity and evaluation measures for performance, (4) learn why successful diversified organization offer incentive compensation packages, (5) successful diversified organizations align the corporate culture to the mother company, (6) secure competitive advantage, and (7) seize businesses through smart acquisitions.
Quotes from the book:
“First-class corporate governance and proper dealings are important to all of them.”
“Successful diversified firms are masters at keeping it simple and at establishing systems and procedures that ensure it remains that way.”
“Diversification is the variation between businesses within a company.”
“Managers and boards are frightened to stray from ‘core business,’ even though this concept proves elusive in practice.”
5 – Creative Strategy | By Chris Bilton and Stephen Cummings
Authors Chris Bilton and Stephen Cummings are academics who propose utilizing creativity part of your daily operations. In Creative Strategy: Reconnecting Business and Innovation the authors give examples through graphics and the rehearsal room at England’s Royal Shakespeare Company. The authors discuss why success requires innovation and careful management. The writing style is a bit dry, however, the insights and treatise are recommended to business historians, managers, CEOs, consultants, and anyone else who needs to produce an impactful strategy.
Things to look for in this book include; impactful business strategy means you must be comfortable with uncertainty; change the argument through change from innovation; today’s employees desire collaboration, not top-down management; learn that discipline and structure is needed for creativity; Moneyball’s Billy Beane is impactful examples of what unconventional leadership entails; and learn why combining entrepreneurship, leadership, and innovation develops into a renewed growth cycle.
Quotes from the book:
“Breaking down the old assumptions and hierarchies which divide creativity and strategy, and rebuilding the connections which join them, is the first step in the creative strategy journey.”
“Strategic leadership…depends upon interacting with people…and at the same time envisioning a clear way forward by abstracting away from these detailed actions and seeing the bigger picture.”
“But not only are we biologically and temperamentally drawn to distraction, moving between things or multi-tasking is also good for creativity.”
“Strategic leadership is about an ability to understand, simplify and loosely outline the big picture, and connect this to the minutiae at every level.”
6 – Strategy | By Lawrence Freedman
One of the world’s top authorities on warfare and tactical analysis, Sir Lawrence Freedman poses a brief history of strategy “the craft of producing power” of astounding selection and erudition. In Strategy: A History, Freedman starts by demonstrating the universality of tactical thinking (even chimpanzees strategize) and continues to direct visitors on a trip throughout the foundation of this Western world, tracing the growth of the strategic ideas of politics, war, and business. One of the themes is that the very best strategy can perform only try to exude an environment that is recalcitrant and complicated. Though, this compendium seems doomed to neglect: It can’t cover every element of this niche, and its thickness is irregular. Since Sir Lawrence himself has said, “Strategy is all about power and how you can create it but it’s also about the capacity to comprehend the limits of power” His history, while a massive accomplishment, is the world’s unpredictability and is also really just a lesson from the limits of individual vision and restraint.
“Strategies were not so much means of asserting control over situations but ways of coping with situations in which nobody was in total control.”
“It is well to avoid illusions of control, but in the end, all we can do is act as if we can influence events. To do otherwise is to succumb to fatalism.”
“Corporate “strategy was an example of thinking that concealed more than it revealed in order to support established power structures.”
“Nothing should be done to diminish the murderous consequences of nuclear war because nothing should be done to encourage any thought that it was worth starting.”
7 – Good Strategy/ Bad Strategy | By Richard Rumelt
Do you prefer to spend some time together with a few of the planet’s most admired business leaders discussing the fine things of strategy? In Good Strategy / Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters; by simply scanning Richard Rumelt’s focus, this particular meeting can be arranged by you, at least within an editorial feel. Here is the chance to study with an expert whom The Economist has called as one of the 25 most influential individuals people in corporate and management practices, also that McKinsey Quarterly has predicted”plan’s strategist.”
Some of the concepts in this book include; “plans are not a strategy;” bad strategy originates from dysfunction; strategy requires the clever use of one’s advantages; great strategies begins with three components, diagnosis, guiding policy, and coherent actions; learn to create value when following and applying a sound strategy, and the evidence that the strategy is solid will be if it works.
Quotes from the book:
“A leader’s most important job is creating and constantly adjusting this strategic bridge between goals and objectives.”
A strategy coordinates action to address a specific challenge.”
“Strategy is visible as coordinated action imposed on a system. When I say the strategy is “imposed,” I mean just that. It is an exercise in centralized power, used to overcome the natural workings of a system. This coordination is unnatural in the sense that it would not occur”
“Strategies focus on resources, energy, and attention on some objectives rather than others. Unless collective ruin is imminent, a change in strategy will make some people worse off. Hence, there will be powerful forces opposed to almost any change in strategy. This is the fate of many strategic initiatives in large organizations.”
8 – Competitive Strategy | By By Michael Porter
This book is timeless and should be read by anyone in the business. Michael E. Porter’s ideas on competitiveness have dropped little relevance despite the fact he first advanced them in 1980. They’ve now become so much part of business practice and business terminology that when one reads the book than a feeling of discovery with an awareness of comprehension. His prose style is simple and clear, albeit somewhat plodding, and the book can tend to repeat itself. Porter’s clarity is a welcome shift in the murk you encounter in many different books on business strategy, and a useful pedagogical intent is served by his copying. Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors is highly recommended for those who are in business and are highly ranked on our list of the best books on business strategy.
Things you can expect to learn in this book include; a solid competitive strategy rests on a solid grasp of the market environment; disparate businesses share common structural characteristics and are open to comparison; competition will reduce returns to the amount of the risk-free rate of return in addition to the chance of capital loss; and even most businesses can be “mapped” to groups of competitors who compete in the same industry.
Quotes from the book:
“Understanding the process of industry evolution and being able to predict change are important because the cost of reacting strategically usually increases as the need for change becomes more obvious.”
“The essence of the capacity decision, then, is not the discounted cash flow calculation but the numbers that go into it, including probability assessments about the future.”
“An enhanced level of ’financial consciousness’ along a variety of dimensions is often necessary in maturity, whereas in the developmental period of the industry areas such as new products and research may have rightly held center stage.”
“It seems to be an accepted fact that industries tend to consolidate over time, but as a general statement, it simply is not true.”
9 – The Well-Timed Strategy | By Peter Narvarro
This useful, concise compendium provides managers a collection of advice on handling altering business cycles and exemplifies its advice with fascinating real scenarios. Author Peter Navarro in The Well-Time Strategy: Managing the Business Cycle for Competitive Advantage shows managers who take action but at times meet with luck. The book originated during the five-year “Master Cyclist Project” that was launched to teach MBA students on business -cycle management at the University of California in Irvine. The book demonstrates detailed analysis of the principles of business-cycle management.
A few concepts in this book include; timing is everything, e.g. in the business cycle; learn to manage the business cycle, managers take measures when they need to spend and spend lavishly when they should cut back; hire new people in recessions, expect bad times during economic booms, learn to watch the yield curve and stock market; and even diversifying reduces business cycle risk.
Quotes from the book:
“The line between corporate success and failure is now being drawn by the ability – or lack thereof – of the…executive team to…understand the business cycle in all of its strategic and tactical richness, and then proactively manage that cycle for competitive advantage.”
“By watching how the stock, bond and currency markets react to each new piece of economic news, executives can build both financial market literacy and a savvy business cycle ’sixth sense’ about where the economy might be heading.”
“The Master Cyclist always uses his highly sophisticated understanding of the business cycle – and the related stock market and interest rate cycles – to tactically time any key acquisition or divestiture.”
“Companies face specific macroeconomic risks that range from oil price shocks and interest rate spikes to movements in commodity prices and exchange rates.”
10 – Elements of Strategy | By Mark Daniell
For a company to have a competitive future, the organization must ensure objective goals are realistic and able to be reached. There are many strategic plans that end up in the back room simply collecting dust. Mark Daniell’s Elements of Strategy: A Pocket Guide to the Essence of Successful Business Strategy is a knowledge-packed short book on the insights and value for corporate planners who are developing and implementing blueprints for the organization’s long-term objectives. This book is efficiently and vitally summarized with the most complex business topics for an easily digestible format with a checklist and easily accessible information.
This book includes concepts like; corporate business plans need to be fluid to succeed; business planners can learn great strategies from military strategist; getting more people involved with the planning stage allows for an easier implementation; results are the only way to accurately evaluate a business strategy, and even modern businesses are prioritizing social responsibility into their corporate strategy.
11 – Design a Better Business | By Patrick Van Der Pijl, Justin Lokit, and Lisa Kay Solomon
In Design a Better Business: New Tools, Skills, and Mindset for Strategy and Innovation is a book that offers many pages of illustrations that pulls out the text. This book is designed by experts that layout their thesis on the flexibility of process and product design. The authors include advice, examples, and a seven-step progression of process and product development.
Concepts include that will teach you to learn; how to embrace design thinking, systems, and processes; learn to design process by training and inspiring the right team; learn and document the necessary priorities of being customer first; and learn to continue the design process through validating, experimenting and improving.
Quotes from the book:
“By empowering people to take a human-centered point of view with a strong focus on the customer, smaller teams will be able to accomplish so much more.”
“It’s crucial to employ players with varying skills and superpowers…teams need to be multidisciplinary.”
“Scaling is about tackling a different problem, raising the stakes and continuing the design journey as a culture.”
“Don’t think you can figure it out all in your head. You need to prototype your design, not just for your customers, but also for yourself.”
12 – The Stakeholder Strategy | By Ann Svendsen
Written in a conversational fashion, The Stakeholder Strategy: Profiting from Collaborative Business Relationships attempts to show businesses how they can create and cultivate those connections for everyone’s mutual advantage and makes the situation for stakeholder connections. Ann Svendsen’s critically acclaimed book is one of the first efforts to establish a new relationship between business and its employees, customers, and communities. Most of stakeholders and leaders and Business leaders will discover insights here. Svendsen provides lots of illustrations, drawn to encourage her claims.
A few take-aways from this book include; stakeholder collaboration will not be taught in business school; stakeholder relationship may be viewed as a source of competitive advantage; collaboration between stakeholders can bring stability and bring company’s image and solidify reputation; and also learn why companies need to build collaborative relationships with stakeholders and maintain them.
Quotes from the book:
“The fact that we live in an ethnically pluralistic, globalized culture means that individuals living in the same country may not agree about what corporations should or should not be responsible for, or what actually constitutes socially responsible behavior.”
“Companies that encourage their employees to take risks and to learn from situations and experiences will be more likely to benefit from stakeholder relationships.”
“Keep in mind that most organizational change efforts fail to produce expected results because businesses don’t cope well with the emotional aspects of change.”
“Companies across North America are taking seriously the notion that as paradoxical as it seems, one way to succeed in a highly competitive, globalized economy is to cooperate.”
13 – Strategy Rules | By David Yoffie and Michael Cusumano
David B. Yoffie, a professor of international business administration at Harvard Business School, and Michael A. Cusumano, a management professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have written 21 books together. In Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs they answer the question of how CEOs master the areas of strategy and implementation. Their selections of choices include Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Intel CEO Andy Grove and also former and the late CEO Steve Jobs of Apple.
Strategy Rules complies with the best practices in entrepreneurship and strategic management from the approaches of the CEOs’ enormous multinational companies. The authors lay insights for start-up entrepreneurs and executives of organizations.
14 – Strategy Safari | By Henry Mintzberg, Joseph Lampel, and Bruce Ahlstrand
You could read 100 books and not locate any of them as pleasant or educational. Yet, this book is included in the best books on business strategy list for obvious reasons. In Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour Through The Wilds of Strategic Management the authors utilize a sprinkling of cartoons and humorous quotes to add some flavor to their text, Henry Mintzberg, Bruce Ahlstrand and Joseph Lampel explain 10 strategy concepts without making you feel like you’re eating sand. They offer a chapter on each strategic concept, an opening and a final chapter that verifies that no strategic model can change out your connection to the temptations of your company.
The 10 strategic concepts include; the design school, planning school, positioning school, entrepreneurial school, cognitive school, power school, cultural school, environmental school, and configuration school. Learn to base your approach on the company and who you are. These 10 schools look at the realities of business from different perspectives.
Quotes from the book:
“[The] terrible bias in today’s management literature toward the current, the latest, the ‘hottest’…does a disservice…to the readers who are all too frequently offered the trivial new instead of the significant old.”
15 – Cultural Strategy | By Douglas Holt and Douglas Cameron
Starbucks, Vitaminwater, Ben & Jerry’s and Marlboro are all brands that provided nothing however their marketing succeeds with customer ideology. In Cultural Strategy: Using Innovative Ideologies to Build Breakthrough Brands, authors Douglas Holt and Douglas Cameron demonstrate the “cultural strategy” with great insights in an information-packed book.
Key concepts include; many branding experts encourage innovation and “mindshare marketing;” “cultural innovation” seeks out ideological opportunities to shift societal thinking; the “frontier ideology” concept fits Jack Daniel’s image as rural; “brand bureaucracy” is particularly practiced in the marketing of Fuse Music Televioins and Fat Tire Beer.
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