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Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works Hardcover – February 5, 2013
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Winner Thinkers50 Best Book Award 2012 and 2013.” Thinkers50 (thinkers50.com)
Playing to Win is a rare tale from the front lines of business and from two of its smartest minds.” Washington Post
[Playing to Win]: How Strategy Really Works may be the best business and strategy book I’ve read since Michael Porter. There is plenty of practical advice, including the fact that business people often confuse a vision for a strategy. Instead, the authors claim winning through distinctive choices is the always-and-forever job of every strategist.” Jonathan Becher, SAP via Forbes.com
Lafley and Martin have artfully combined two virtues that don't often mix: rigor and brevity. Winning strategy doesn't come from inspirational happy-talk; it comes from deeply substantive hard thinking, and they tell us how it's done, with many examples. The book is short, crisp, a pleasure to read. Fortune
I doubt there are two more intelligent business minds out there than Lafley and Martin. Playing to Win meets the high expectations raised by those two names, and is the best business book I’ve read so far this year.” Jack Covert, 800 CEO READ
clear and effective” WSJ.com (Wall Street Journal)
Read their book. They, in turn, are sure to inspire you.” Forbes.com
"I hate CEO books...[but]...this book totally rocks. It's a beautiful manual...a triumph. Tom Keene, Bloomberg TV
This is a fascinating tale, featuring a cast of familiar brands, including Pampers, Tide and Olay, each of which went through a transformation under Mr. Lafley’s eye.” The Economist
this new offering by former Procter & Gamble CEO Lafley (coauthor of The Game-Changer) and Martin (dean of the Rotman School of Management and author of Fixing the Game) is a clear standout This collection of insights and captivating examples about strategy is a must-read for leaders at any level in the for-profit or not-for-profit world.” Publishers Weekly
Strategy lessons, 101 a manual for strategy practitioners.” Financial Times
The many stories from one of the biggest consumer goods firms in the world, with its many successes (and some failures too) along with the framework of the strategy to win, make this an interesting read.” livemint.com
a highly readable book that provides the reader with a very good understanding of the process and the real building blocks of value creation.” Ottawa Business Journal
Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Workswritten by an impressive duo: former Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley and Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto Roger Martinis not just an insiders’ tale of the workings of a successful global corporation. It’s the story of how you can do what top brands do: Create and execute stellar strategy well. Lots of books are published about business strategy, many of them either badly written or not relevant to associations, or both. This one is an exception.” Associations Now (ASAE: American Society of Association Executives)
interesting and thought-provoking work on business strategy” Business World
The best practitioner-focused strategy book I have ever read, and all the more useful for the fact it is concise, well-structured and compelling, with almost no jargon.” Strategic Management Bureau
Unlike many management texts, which read as if written for CEOs of multi-billion-dollar businesses, these tales from the fast-moving consumer goods front are useful for acquiring, extending or defending market share at any size of company.” The Deal: The Australian Business Magazine
I wish this book had been available to me earlier it would have been invaluable during my tenure at Britannia!” Sunil K. Alagh (Ex-CEO, Britannia Industries Ltd.) in Outlook Business
You’re unlikely to find a more comprehensive guide to what strategy actually means and how to use it to your company’s advantage.” HR Magazine
As a mere student of life and an avid readers of business literature that is grounded in the practical and realistic realms, I found this (book) is a must read.” Jonathan Yach (CEO, PropCare Mall Management) in Business World (India)
The book offers many inside stories about how P&G tackled strategy in various arenas, including examples of when it failed. That gives an even more practical flavour to this practical look at strategy, from two savvy strategy practitioners.” The Globe & Mail
Sure to be a strategy classic. Book of the Month.” Strategic Management Bureau
Set to become a classic text on strategy.” Decision (Ireland)
a full vindication of P&G’s strategic nous” Marketing Ireland
Two of today’s best-known business thinkers get to the heart of strategy. The stories of how P&G repeatedly won by applying [Lafley and Martin's] method to iconic brands such as Olay, Bounty, and Gillette, clearly illustrate how deciding on a strategic approach--and then making the right choices to support it makes the difference between just playing the game and actually winning.” Expert Marketer Magazine
a must-read book” American Express Open Forum
the book can be used by any business to help mesh everyday operations with long-term strategic objectives.” Fort Worth Star Telegram
Playing to Win clearly elevates the discussion of strategy. It gets to the heart of what’s important for a business leader.” Business Standard
The book delivers on the title. It’s a unique and nuanced view of strategy and its implementation. Highly recommended.” Business Traveller (businesstraveller.com)
just about everyone trying to market anything these days could profit from this careful, well-done text on how to craft a strategy.” Marketing Daily
an important addition to every decision-maker’s library.” Success magazine
Pick up the book to know how to create a triple crown: a win in China, a win in India, and a win at home; and to understand the differences and similarities between China and India.” Business India
This valuable book is based on the two authors’ years of experience working together and separately at P&G and Rotman School of Management. It is rich in examples and practical advice that show how organizations of all sizes can move beyond visions and plans to create judiciously plotted winning strategies.” Developing Leaders
ADVANCE PRAISE for Playing to Win:
Daniel H. Pink, author, Drive and A Whole New Mind
Reading Playing to Win is like having prime seats at the Super Bowl of strategy. You’ll learn the strategies consumer goods powerhouse Procter & Gamble uses to get its innovative products into millions of homesplus tested methods for winning your own marketplace contests. If you’re a marketer or a leader, you need to read this book.”
Sir Terry Leahy, former CEO, Tesco
This is the best book on strategy I have ever read. Lafley and Martin get to the heart of what’s important: how to make choices in order to control events rather than allowing events to control your choices. Everyone wants to win; this book sets down with calm authority the steps you must take to turn aspiration into reality.”
Clayton M. Christensen, Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School; author, The Innovator’s Dilemma
Lafley and Martin teach us how to develop and then how to deploy strategy. Their recommendations apply at every levelcorporation, business units, products, and teams. This is a great book.”
Chip Heath, coauthor, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work
Most authors conduct research before they write a book. Lafley and Martin went out and did something. They used their simple, subtle frameworkWhere will we play? How will we win?to double the value of one of the world’s greatest businesses. And now they’re showing you how to do the same. Read this book. . . before your competitors find it.”
Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO, Lego Group
Playing to Win is a rare combination of depth of thinking and ease of use. It clearly explains what business strategy is and isn’t, and how to develop it. Lafley and Martin distill their hard-won experiences and offer insights, practical hands-on tools, and tips that will inspire and allow you to think strategically in new ways about your own business.”
Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO, General Electric
A great CEO and a renowned educator join forces to create a must-read for anyone thinking about strategy.”
Scott Cook, cofounder and Chairman of the Executive Committee, Intuit
Here is business strategy through the eyes of the man who led Procter & Gamble’s stunning turnaround and success in the 2000s and the strategist who advised and worked with him. Lush with insights that show the what” and the how” of two master strategists.”
James P. Hackett, President and CEO, Steelcase Inc.
Lafley and Martin have invested their respective careers in understanding the complexity of strategy. What has emerged in this seminal work is a simple and rich framework that can help business leaders think through strategic choices. It is an eminently helpful guide to choice making, which is the most essential part of leadership.”
Jim McNerney, President, CEO, and Chairman, Boeing
Playing to Win is an insightful do-it-yourself guide that demystifies what it takes to craft, implement, and continuously improve effective business strategies. Using relevant, real-world examples, Lafley and Martin offer proven techniques for competing and winning in today’s challenging global business environment.”
Thomas Tull, founder and CEO, Legendary Pictures
I love this book; it is thought provoking and acts as a catalyst to ask questionsabout ourselves and our business life course. In a day and age when information and instant communication are relentless components of business and our lifestyle, A. G. Lafley and Roger Martin suggest we take an important pause to actually question our strategic road maps and the associated plans we need in order to succeed in this marketplace.”
About the Author
Roger Martin is Dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and an adviser to CEOs on strategy, design, innovation, and integrative thinking. In 2011, Roger was named by Thinkers50 as the sixth top management thinker in the world. This is his eighth book; he also contributes regularly to Harvard Business Review, the Financial Times, and the Washington Post, among others. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and an AB in economics from Harvard College.
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Filippo Passerini was one of the main executives for P&G. He lead the M&A with Gillette and brought new IT capabilities to the company. During the classes at the MBA, he used to talk about this VUCA world (vulnerable, unpredictable, chaotic and ambiguous). Several times he talked about Playing to Win and he told us this book was a longer version of his classes; that;s why I picked it up, 2 years after graduating, but as hungry as usual.
Playing to win discusses the way P&G and its brands approach strategy. And what’s unique about them? Well, the title says it all.
P&G has 5 questions or areas when it comes to clarify the way to move forward
What is our winning aspiration?
Determine a particular place and a determined way to win. And winning is translated about clear statements about an ideal future.
Where will we play?
This are the sets of choices that narrow your competitive field. In which market, to which customers, through which channels, in which product categories and at which vertical stage.
How will we win where we have chosen to play?
What will enable the company to create unique value to customers in a way that is distinct from competition.
What capabilities must be in place to win?
(1) What core capabilities must be in place to win; range and quality and activities that will enable company to win (2) what management systems are required to support this strategic choices?;
And what are core capabilities?
(a) Deep consumer understanding (b) Innovation (c ) Brand Building (d) Go-to-Market ability (e) Global scale
What management systems are required to ensure the capabilities are in place?
Foster, support and measure the strategy.
Each category has depth and several layers. Is not as easy as it seems.
Moreover, the network the company has is complex and simple at the same time.
At the heart of this network, there’s consumer understanding, brand building, innovation, go-to-market capabilities and scale. All of them make a lot of sense when you are P&G, but also they make sense when you are a small company just trying to meet each month.
So, what's important about where to play and how to win? What should be the framework?
The industry, attractiveness of segments.
Customers, what do they value?
Relative position, how does your company fare regarding competition?
Competition, what competition will do once you have chosen your course of action
The strategy logic flow
First you need to understand the industry attractiveness, this means segmentation and how attractive is each segment.
Then we move to customer value analysis: whether it is as a cost leader or differentiator, the company needs to understand what the customer values.
Once we have a deep understanding of our customer we need to capture our relative position. What capabilities do we have in house and most importantly, how our costs looks like? Now we go to Competitors analysis, is all about anticipating competitors reactions once we have started our strategy deployment. Last but not least, our strategic choice. At some point, the book states that a big part of a strategy is about saying “no” and this last part is all about where to play and how to win.
The book closes with many questions (my favorite sort of book, open for you to sort it).
Have you define winning and your winning inspirations?
Have you decided where can you play to win?
Have you determined how will you win?
Have you built your core capabilities to compete?
Do your management systems and KPI's are ready to support the precious 4 pillars?
Lafley was the Chairman and CEO of (P&G) through one of the most challenging periods in its history. When he took over the leadership position P&G was no longer delivering the outstanding returns. P&G was considered too big to continue being a growth stock. With Lafley at the helm, it achieved the near impossible, growth at a pace rarely associated with mature, enormous firms.
This book is about how a strong commitment to strategy, at every level, and in every part of the organization made this possible. In P&G's case, this was not a commitment to the board’s strategy, (a surprisingly rare event anywhere,) but a strong commitment to thinking about one’s division, department or business unit using a strategy method.
Strategy is one of the most misused and misunderstood concepts in business. Lafley cites ideas often mistaken for strategy. ‘Strategy’ is often misunderstood as ‘a vision,’ which offers no guidance “to productive action and no explicit road map to the desired future.”
Strategy is not a plan or a set of tactics; those are only elements of strategy. Strategy is certainly not leaving control to chance and watching what emerges. Strategy is not following best practices -sameness is not strategy, it is a recipe for mediocrity.
Strongly committed to some of the principles espoused by Michael Porter and to using his terminology, Lafley and co-author, Professor Roger Martin, describe their playbook: Five Choices, One Framework, One Process.
The title “Playing to Win” is a central theme of Lafley’s approach. “Winning should be at the heart of any strategy,” in fact, it would make no sense to Lafley to aspire to anything less than winning.
In order to beat the competition, two key questions need to be answered. They are – “where to play,” and “how to win.” The strategic decisions made for P&G products are used to illustrate the application of this method.
The skincare product, Oil of Olay, was getting “tired” and sales were declining, but brand recognition was still strong, and it was still profitable. People were calling Oil of Olay, “Oil of Old Lady.” Applying the question, where should it play, they identified that the existing customers were price sensitive and only minimally invested in skin care. However, they also identified a new set of customers, who had real growth potential, the thirty-five-plus age cohort that was beginning to notice their first lines and wrinkles.
To win, P & G scientists went to work on sourcing and developing better and more effective compounds. This would create a skin-care product that could dramatically outperform existing products in the market. Olay fits in a product category where price is an indicator of value, but P&G was designed for mass markets, and so they developed an additional category, “masstige” a mass-market prestige version of their product. Priced high enough to give substantial margins, indicate value, and appeal to the upper end of the mass market, they revitalise the brand, attracted a younger consumer, and expanded their offering.
They had answered the strategic question, “where to play,” and “how to win.” These strategic questions were followed by the operationalization of the answers in the form of two other questions: What capabilities must be in place and what management systems would be required to ensure successful implementation.
Strategic thinking using the five principles was not the preserve of the board - rather it was a process to be followed everywhere in the organization.
Using the same strategy process, the marketing department reformulated their mandate. An essential element in P&G’s company strategy is the classification of the customer as “the Boss” whose needs must be understood accurately and satisfied better than expected.
To this end, marketing defined where they should play as the conducting of innovative market research using edgy techniques. All conventional research, such as surveys and focus groups, would be outsourced. They could have chosen to play in the conventional research field and outsourced the edgy techniques, but chose not to in order to serve their customer more effectively than an external provider could.
Strategy is all about making choices.
This is not a ‘how-to’ book on strategy according to Porter. Porter, an industrial economist turned strategist, was in his prime in the 80s. His thinking is still relevant to behemoths in manufacturing, with some important modifications. He is certainly not applicable to many other businesses without modification and manipulation.
This extremely valuable book is a testament to the importance of instituting thinking strategically throughout an organization to deliver a sustainable competitive advantage. This is the first comprehensive account of this means I have ever come across, and what a powerful example at that. P&G has had an outstanding record during some of the most difficult years in business and has succeeded.
Take this seriously. Very seriously.
Readability Light --+-- Serious
Insights High -+--- Low
Practical High -+--- Low
Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy
Top international reviews
Having worked for Unilever myself (way, way back in the day) it was endearing to be reminded by this book how brands, when treated as a real persona and taken seriously, are able to deliver huge rewards. Anecdotes aplenty about Tide, Olay, Febreze, etc., are used to explain their framework of: Where to play? How to win; What capabilities are needed and what management systems are required.
The book has its limitations obviously, yet it's clearly and concisely written. It makes many valuable points simply and unobtrusively. Since its practical for most and treats strategy with respect - I loved it.
In Playing To Win, Roger Martin teams up with A.G. Lafley to explain the process of creating strategic decisions told through the story of the strategic decision making at P&G while A.G.Lafley was CEO and Roger Martin was his chief outside strategic advisor. At a time when many executives would synonymise strategy with financial planning, or creation of yearly goals, Lafley and Martin remind us that strategy boils down to two questions: ‘where to play?’ and ‘how to win?’ and then making specific choices. In Martin and Lafley’s words:
“A strategy is a coordinated and integrated set of where-to-play, how-to-win, core capability, and management system choices that uniquely meet a customer’s needs…it is only through making and acting on choices that you can win. Yes, clear, tough choices force your hand and confine you to a path. But they also free you to focus on what matters.”
In the penultimate chapter, Martin and Lafley describe in detail their techniques to think through strategic issues in a way that leads to real decisions, not rafts of analyst reports and is the only method Martin now uses. I won’t spoil what is perhaps the most valuable part of the book, but suffice to say that once I started this chapter I could not put down the book and despite a long week, read late into the night.
Playing to Win: How strategy really works is nothing short of brilliant, and if you are a strategist, or just a manager trying to figure out how to grow or turn around your business you should have a dog-eared copy on your bookshelf next to Michael Porter’s Competitive Strategy.