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Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy Hardcover – December 6, 2011


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Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy + Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors + Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; First Edition edition (December 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422160599
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422160596
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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I really enjoyed reading this book. easy reading.
T. Campos
This book provides meaningful and practical insight into Michael Porter's strategic concepts.
Benito Ortiz
It's a must read for anyone interested in strategy, Porter, or business.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Ashok A on December 12, 2011
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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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Jackal on February 14, 2012
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 By mark guay on 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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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on 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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