Want to Be a Better Strategic Planner? Read These Classic & New Books on Strategy

In general, to be effective in any discipline, one must acquire the knowledge and skills required to practice that discipline.  If you are looking to be effective in the practice of the strategic management discipline, we encourage you to become familiar with many of these books.  Each adds to the overall body of knowledge which makes up the discipline of strategic management.


  • The origin of the word strategy predates recorded history and comes from strategos or military commander in histories of fifth-century B.C. Greek city-states.
  • In the early 16th century the Roman model of warfare was reintroduced in the Art of War by Niccolò Machiavelli as the first model for modern warfare. 
  • Around 2,300 years ago, Sun Tzu is credited for having written the Art of War, a compilation of essays that remains, to this day, profound wisdom on the conduct of war.
  • Peter Drucker, the seminal thinker on management in the last half of the 20th century, wrote about “Management by Objective” (MBO) in his classic The Practice of Management (1954).  
  • Drucker further developed his ideas pertaining to strategy in Management by Results (1964). This latter work appeared just as strategy as the central organizing concept for planning, structuring, and managing large-scale companies was being developed and taught by leading theorists and scholars of the decade.  
  • Igor Ansoff explained in Corporate Strategy: An Analytical Approach to Business Policy for Growth and Expansion (1965) that strategy becomes the rule for making decisions: the “common thread” with four components—product/market scope; the growth vector; competitive advantage; and synergy.
  • In the early 1970s, the Boston Consulting Group (“BCG”) developed an analytic model for managing a portfolio of different business units (or major product lines). The first use of portfolio analysis, the BCG Growth-Share Matrix, displays the various business units on a graph charting market growth rate vs. market share relative to competitors.  https://www.bcg.com/publications/1970/strategy-the-product-portfolio.aspx
  • Michael Porter described in Competitive Strategy – Techniques for Analyzing Industries (1980)  a framework in which he used concepts developed in industrial organization economics to derive five competitive forces that determine the attractiveness of a market.
  • Tom Peters and Robert Waterman (1982), in their book In Search of Excellence developed an organizational model called the “Seven S” model that puts strategic management within the context of a complex organizational network.
  • Porter’s second major contribution to strategic management field was his classification of generic strategies described in Competitive Advantage (1985).
  • Peter Senge (1990) added to this internal focus in The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization by describing the impact of learning on both strategic and operational management.
  • Robert Kaplan and David Norton had a major impact on the discipline beginning with their first book entitled The Balanced Scorecard: Measures that Drive Performance. (1992) In this book they first developed the concept of a “balanced scorecard” that stressed the need to measure and control performance based on measuring and monitoring four types of measure / perspectives.
  • Chris Argyris made an important contribution to many disciplines in his 1993 book Knowledge for Action: A Guide to Overcoming Barriers to Organizational Change.  Herein he described the importance of a steady stream information to the facilitate what he defined as double-loop learning—learning that changes people’s assumptions and, therefore, their responses. 
  • Rosabeth Kantor described in The Change Masters: Innovation for Productivity in the American Corporation (1994) her concepts of change management that include a major emphasis on empowerment throughout the organization to implement strategy effectively.
  • Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad made several important contributions to the development of the strategic management field, e.g. core competency.  This critical concept was originally described in The Core Competence of the Organization (1994).
  • Henry Mintzberg in his critical critique of strategic planning, in the Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning (1994) concludes that the term strategic planning is an oxymoron. Meaning that strategy cannot be planned because planning is about analysis and strategy is about synthesis. He articulates that strategy is “emergent” not planned.
  • In 1995 Fred Fry and Charles Stoner wrote a thoughtful book on strategic planning and management of the small business entitled Strategic Planning in the Small Business
  • Jeanenne LaMarsh wrote a wonderful book on change management in 1995 entitled Changing the Way We Change: Gaining Control of Major Operational Change.  She points out change management begins with setting the vision—a desired future state.  However, this vision cannot be fully defined at the outset, that is, “the future is never an ‘end’—instead, it is a guideline, a flexible framework that sets the outside boundaries for change. It is ill defined, adjusting, and impermanent.” 
  • In 1996 (originally 1992), Kaplan and Norton were among the first to recognize the need to carefully define the relationship/dynamics between strategy and operations.  This logic was clearly summarized in The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy in Action. They helped us understand the importance of executing the overall organizational strategy through a balanced operational approach. Norton and Kaplan’s “Balanced Scorecard” methodology specifies four strategic perspectives leadership teams must consider when building the bridge between the strategic plan and the strategic operating plan.  They include the financial, customer, internal business, and learning and growth perspectives.   
  • The 2001 work of Jim Collins in Good to Great on the Hedgehog Concept is also noteworthy.  Collins points out the goals is not to be the best, an intention to be the best, or even a plan to be the best. Rather, it is arriving at a fundamental understanding of what you can be the best at.
  • One excellent example of using the concepts of Hamel and Prahalad is demonstrated in the work of W. C. Kim and Renee Mauborgne (2005), Blue Ocean Strategy. They developed an imaginative and creative approach to stretching and leveraging core competencies to gain an advantage in competing for the future.

LBL Strategies Team

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.