Book Category: Business, Entrepreneurial,

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works (book summary)

Author: A.G. Lafley, Roger L. Martin,
Life Changing Principles
Quality of Writing
Overall Value
pros: Easy-to-follow strategies, great for organizations
cons: Sometimes simplistic
overall rating

Quick Summary
Lafley’s Playing to Win details the importance of creating and developing a sound strategy for every business. He raises 5 critical questions that every organization must be able to answer with confidence.

Key Insights

  • Really, strategy is about making specific choices to win in the marketplace
  • Optimization is not strategy
  • Winning should be at the heart of any strategy
  • There is no perfect strategy
  • Make the consumer the boss
  • Measure everything
  • Avoid these pitfalls:
  • The do-it-all strategy: failing to make choices, and making everything a priority
  • The Don Quixote strategy: attacking competitive “walled cities” or taking on the strongest competitor first, head-to-head
  • The Waterloo strategy: starting wars on multiple fronts with multiple competitors at the same time
  • The something-for-everyone strategy: attempting to capture all consumer or channel or geographic or category segments at once
  • The dreams-that-never-come-true strategy: developing high-level aspirations and mission statements that never get translated into concrete where-to-play and how-to-win choices, core capabilities, and management systems
  • The program-of-the-month strategy: settling for generic industry strategies, in which all competitors are chasing the same customers, geographies, and segments in the same way
  • Must be able to answer:
  • What is your winning aspiration?
  • Where will you play?
  • How will you win?
  • What capabilities must be in place?
  • What management systems are required?

Practical Application

  • Don’t be like Saturn, and aim for the top
  • Aim for differentiation, not being the low cost leader (Southwest vs Apple)
  • Build an activity system

Meaningful Quotes (Optional)

“A firm creates a sustainable competitive advantage over its rivals by “deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver unique value.” – Mike Porter

“Strategy is an integrated set of choices that uniquely positions the firm in its industry so as to create sustainable advantage and superior value relative to the competition.”

“Sameness isn’t strategy. It is a recipe for mediocrity.”

Interested? Buy the book here!