The Top 5 Books on Strategy

I’m hoping that these lists will spark discussion and debate – let me know if I’ve missed your favorite strategy book!

OK – here we go, in reverse order, these are my selections for the best large corporate strategy books:

# 5 – The Art of War (Sun Tzu)

A true classic – a book that has nothing and everything to do with business.  If you’ve never read it, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy – it’s a small book that reads quickly.  It will definitely leave an impression, and I challenge you not to see the parallels to the world of work.  The strategies that Sun Tzu espouses in this book have been studied for centuries, and still hold up today.

# 4 – Only the Paranoid Survive (Andy Grove)

This book, written by the former CEO of Intel, describes the inside story of a successful change in business models of an already large and successful company.  Grove describes the overall business climate facing Intel, and explains the “strategic inflection point” that Intel recognized and leveraged to take the company to new heights.  Grove weaves a story of how Intel faced a crisis that could well have ended in very differently, had they followed a different path, and does a wonderful job of reflecting on what he learned from this and related events at Intel.  A great “inside one company” story.   Another great one company story is Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? by former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner.

# 3 – Competing for the Future (Gary Hamel & C.K. Prahalad)

This is like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones taking the stage together – two superstar management consultants teamed up in 1996 and wrote this terrific book on, essentially, business strategy.  The authors wrote: “Winning in business today is not about being number one–it’s about who gets to the future first.” In the book, they urge companies to create their own futures, envision new markets, and reinvent themselves.  Sound advice, even today.

# 2 – Good to Great (Jim Collins)

Who didn’t read this book?  Who didn’t love this book?  Collins tells a fascinating tale of companies that made the transition from humble beginnings to stability and greatness, and lays out the formula for success for any company to follow, if they can (and that’s just it – it isn’t easy).  A wild-card “strategy” book, but you have to love the message – unassuming leadership, great customer service, quality products, taking care of your employees.  A strategic blueprint if there ever was one.

# 1 – Competitive Strategy (Michael Porter)

The bible, according to many.  Porter is well-known for his HBR articles on strategy, and this book captures most of his influential points.  In the very first chapter, Porter lays out his famous “Five Forces” model – one that companies have been using ever since.  If you want to dive into the deep details of business strategy, this is your book.