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Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy [Kindle Edition]

Joan Magretta
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Competitive advantage. The value chain. Five forces. Industry structure. Differentiation. Relative cost. If you want to understand how companies achieve and sustain competitive success, Michael Porter’s frameworks are the foundation. But while everyone in business may know Porter’s name, many managers misunderstand and misuse his concepts.

Understanding Michael Porter sets the record straight, providing the first concise, accessible summary of Porter’s revolutionary thinking. Written with Porter’s full cooperation by Joan Magretta, his former editor at Harvard Business Review, this new book delivers fresh, clear examples to illustrate and update Porter’s ideas.

Magretta uses her wide business experience to translate Porter’s powerful insights into practice and to correct the most common misconceptions about them—for instance, that competition is about being unique, not being the best; that it is a contest over profits, not a battle between rivals; that strategy is about choosing to make some customers unhappy, not being all things to all customers.

An added feature is an original Q&A with Porter himself, which includes answers to managers’ FAQs.

Eminently readable, this book will enable every manager in your organization to grasp Porter’s ideas—and swiftly deploy them to drive your company’s success.


Editorial Reviews

Review

“A book on understanding Porter is worthwhile because he's often misunderstood. He is widely and rightly regarded as the all-time greatest strategy guru, but that view gets the emphasis wrong.” — Fortune magazine

“If you have always intended to read Michael Porter's groundbreaking management classics, but have never quite got around to doing so, Joan Magretta's Understanding Michael Porter does the hard work for you” – Financial Mail (South Africa)

“Magretta’s book is a timely reminder that serves to put Porter’s thinking and concepts before us again—ideas that all firms and strategy practitioners would be well-advised to study and learn from…an excellent read.” — Quality Digest

“Summing Up: Highly recommended” — CHOICE

“Joan Magretta lays out Porter’s ideas on competition in a concise, easy-to-read volume.” — Business Day (South Africa)

“The book is a great read even for those who are looking to get initiated into the Michael Porter way of thinking” — The Economic Times (India)

“Magretta adds value through fresh case studies showing how companies such as Zara, Ikea and In-N-Out Burger deploy Porter’s ideas. Written in a very accessible style, this is a book for managers rather than academics.” — The Irish Times

“Ms. Magretta does a superb job of clearly and logically explaining Prof. Porter’s concepts, with lots of helpful examples. This is a distillation, but it never feels sparse, with ample time for the reader to learn a concept and sufficient reinforcement of the ideas as you are guided through the Porter oeuvre. Reading it brings you up-to-date on his ideas and, more importantly, helps you to understand your own business and the strategic elements you may have missed.” — The Globe & Mail

“200 pages of simple, non-faddish common sense for business.” — Anna Farmery, TheEngagingBrand.com

“Book of the Month. This book will become the strategy bible for today’s busy managers.” — Business Executive

About the Author

Joan Magretta has worked with Michael Porter for almost two decades; she is a Senior Associate at the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School, a McKinsey Award winner, and author of What Management Is, a top pick of its year by The Economist. She was a Bain partner and strategy editor of the Harvard Business Review.

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
59 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Accessible Introduction to Porter. Period. December 12, 2011
By Ashok A
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have read two of Porter's books - Competitive Strategy and Competitive Advantage. And I have also, sort of, understood them - even though I haven't really internalized them for implementing in my company. The reason was that I did not quite get my mind around the concepts in a comprehensive manner as the ideas are in different books and they are not presented as an integrated whole (and, of course, I read them at different times). For the first time, in this book, the concepts are presented in a very accessible manner and connected in a very coherent manner. The books starts (Part 1) with What is Competition - elucidating on the concept of Competition, The Five Forces, and the Value Chain (CA). Part 2 addresses What is Strategy - in which the concepts of Creating Value; Trade-offs; Fit; and Continuity are discussed. The book is wrapped up with A Short List of Implications where in the author summarizes the takeaways and what they mean for us.

I am in the midst of developing a strategy for my company. These easy to understand frameworks have been extremely useful. In fact, after reading this book, I decided not to hire a consultant who was charging me an exorbitant sum ($4,000/day!) as I think that this book will be more helpful. I highly recommend this book esp if you are trying to get a good grasp of the concepts of Michael Porter. An absolute gem.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good summary of Porter's ideas on business-unit strategy February 14, 2012
By Jackal
Format:Hardcover
Michael Porter's ideas on strategic management are important. However his books Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors and Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance are very dense (in addition to being 30 years old). This much shorter book is written in a journalistic style and conveys Porter's basic ideas relating to business-unit strategy.

The book serves as a first encounter with Porter's thinking, but I would really urge readers to study Porter's two first books as well. Even though Porter's books are 30+ years old, they are important. Classics have the remarkable feature of being relevant whenever they are read. Naturally, they are not perfect. They do not talk enough about service industries, but that was not really America in the 70s. The current book has the same deficiency; not that much about service industries.

Even if you have good familiarity with Porter I still cautiously recommend the book. It sometimes adds contextual information, small updates on Porter's thinking, and useful metaphors. For those of you who already have a fair amount of experience (important!) I would also recommend Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters.

The book is a summary of Porter's ideas from a journalist, so do not expect any deep, fundamental analysis. We get a fair share of thoughtless statements.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A home run! January 17, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read the whole book over a long weekend. I must say I could not put it down. For those of us who need an overview of a subject before we dive into the Porter books themselves, this is a great read. For those readers just looking for a summary of Porter's books, this works equally as well. I think this book did Michael Porter the biggest favor of all - it allowed non economics or business majors to understand the importance of strategy. It also turned down the spotlight of individual components of a business [i.e. OE and marketing plans] which, albeit important, must nevertheless be aligned with strategy to be successful. I liked it so much I wrote a blog about it to all my clients. Congratulations to the author.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Credible, and Very Well Written - December 29, 2011
Format:Hardcover
Michael Porter is the Harvard Business School's guru of strategy. He became a leading strategy guru by asking big questions, like 'Why are some companies more profitable than others?,' as well as the same question about industries and some countries. However, the usefulness of his ideas has been limited by the fact that they have not been summarized and sequenced into a single source. Author Joan Magretta brings not only her own credible credentials to this summary of Porter's strategy work, but has also had him review each chapter with her.

The key to competitive success, per Porter, lies in an organization's ability to create unique value. Competing to be unique is accomplished against a specific, relevant set of rivals (the industry). The company's relative position within its industry determines how its value will be created and what kind of value that will be.

A good competitive strategy will result in sustainably superior performance. 'Being #1 or #2 in and industry' (Welch, at G.E.), 'making key acquisitions,' 'doubling the number served (for a non-profit), and 'Don't be evil' (Google) do not tell how an organization will outperform the competition. Nor do they tell one where to compete.

With everyone chasing the same customer (the result when everyone's strategy is simply 'to be the best') every sale is contested, and price competition is the ultimate outcome. As for being #1 or #2, in many industries scale economies are exhausted at a relatively small market share. (G.M. was the world's largest auto manufacturer, and went bankrupt; BMW, much smaller, has earned superior returns vs. the industry.) Overpriced M&A, over-extension into all market segments, and price-cutting to gain market share can be disastrous.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise and Actionable Presentation of 'Harvard MBA' Concepts-...
Concise and actionable, though based on broad topics that can sometimes be overwhelming or bland. I run a small marketing agency of 9 people and was interested in learning more... Read more
Published 26 days ago by Jon
5.0 out of 5 stars LIght Bulb Moment
I rarely provide feedback even on purchases I love. This is a must-read. I studied Porter and his Five Forces in my Master's program but the presentation of his material in this... Read more
Published 1 month ago by S. DeZeeuw
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very Good, Deep, examples and very clearly written
Published 1 month ago by Ernesto Ayala Molina
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy to Read
This book provided a quick synopsis of Michael Porter that I needed fast for a work assignment. Easy to read and easy to digest.
Published 2 months ago by C. Tully
5.0 out of 5 stars Logic and simplicity at its best to be the premier in business.
This is a must have book with you at all times to lead and sustain a truly competitive environment that results in superior earnings in your business. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Raymond Rodriguez
5.0 out of 5 stars The book lays out perfectly the brilliant mind Porter is
I just cannot stop going through this book over and over either it is in my iPad or in my car (listening to the audio version). Read more
Published 2 months ago by Wilson Cuambe
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading for investors and others
As an investment professional I found this book very useful to help identify "quality" companies, stocks that don't just go up and down almost randomly but compound through... Read more
Published 4 months ago by SBYogaman
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Strategy Primer
This book is essentially a review of Michael Porter's early 80's groundbreaking book about strategy. Read more
Published 4 months ago by RAYMOND KUSISTO
5.0 out of 5 stars well worth the price
My MBA program featured a fair number of Porter readings. I found this book to provide some interesting insights and perspectives on some of the most important aspects of Porter's... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Joseph G. Barone
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential is correct
This book does an amazing job of bringing the massive writings about strategy into a relatively short, condensed book that combines technical practical. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Heather Newton
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