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The 5 books every business strategist should read (Updated 2024)

I often get asked about training for new strategists. Or if I could recommend books for new strategists to read.

That got me thinking. What 5 books I would recommend every new business strategist should read?

So here they are:

  1. On Competition, by Michael Porter.

    Porter's work is often criticised. Many other authors claim to have improved on it. But let us not forget that Porter remains the benchmark they are trying to beat. His style is, unfortunately, not the most gripping. But the insights he offers are essential grounding for any strategist.

  2. The Balanced Scorecard, by Robert Kaplan and David Norton.

    Porter lays out the grounding for strategy analysis. Kaplan and Norton set the benchmark for articulating strategy. The Balanced Scorecard will help you to eliminate ambiguity. This will ensure your strategy can get delivered.

    Once you've read The Balanced Scorecard, consider also its sequel. The Strategy-Focused Organisation is by the same authors.

  3. Business Model Generation, by Alex Osterwalder.

    Oswerwalder's book will help you to design your business model. This will help you to create an organisation which can deliver your strategy. Business Model Generation is a practical text which is elegant in its simplicity.

    If you're looking for more after reading this, consider also Operating Model Canvas by Andrew Campbell, Mikel Gutierrez and Mark Lancelott.

  4. Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, by Richard Rumelt.

    Rumelt provides many practical examples of what good strategy looks like. But he also spells out the mistakes organisations typically make. And he describes the consequences of these mistakes. A strategist needs to know what they should do. But they also need to know how to avoid these common mistakes.

  5. The Emergent Approach to Strategy: Adaptive Design and Execution, by Peter Compo

    The most recent book on the list takes a deep dive into the subject and why such high rates of failure persist. Peter argues that at the root of the problem is a planned view of the world. He then proposes that strategy instead emerges as part of a broader framework within organisations through the elimination of alternatives.

There, are, of course, many other good books on strategy. I have reviewed many of these elsewhere in this blog. A strategist should remain a permanent student, and read as widely as possible. However, if you're just getting started, these four books should provide you with the grounding you need.

Image of the cover of Strategic Learning ebook

Don't forget, of course, that there is also this blog. And I also offer a free ebook about strategy development and execution.

Please let me know, in the comments below:

  • your thoughts on any of these books, or
  • which other books you think I should have included on this list.

For a longer list of recommendations, see my bookshelf.

And finally, if you're daunted by the prospect of all that reading, consider: The problem with books about strategy.

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