Book Category: Leadership, Business, Motivational,

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: Motivational, great perspective
cons: Too high level
overall rating

QUICK SUMMARY:  Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works, a Wall Street Journal and Washington Post bestseller by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin, details the importance of creating and developing a sound strategy that can guide everyday business decisions.

At Ethos3, we are inspired by the suggested 5 critical questions for every organization, and we think you will be too.  Also, we thought the outlined strategy pitfalls were insightful and helpful.  We recommend Playing to Win for all seasoned business leaders, as well as startup entrepreneurs.


1. Optimization is not strategy.

2. Measure everything.

3. Winning should be at the heart of any strategy.

4. There is no perfect strategy.

5. Make the consumer the boss.

6. Avoid these pitfalls:

     – The do-it-all strategy: failing to make choices, and making everything a priority

     – The Don Quixote strategy: taking on the strongest competitor first, head-to-head

     – The Waterloo strategy: starting wars with multiple competitors at the same time

     – The something-for-everyone strategy: attempting to capture all segments at once

     – The dreams-that-never-come-true strategy: developing high-level aspirations that never get translated into concrete plans

     – The program-of-the-month strategy: settling for generic industry strategies

7. 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?


1. Don’t be like Saturn; aim for the top.

2. Aim for differentiation, not being the low cost leader (Southwest vs Apple).

3. Build an activity system.

4, Develop an OGSM (objectives, goals, strategy, and measures)


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!