15 Essential Books on Strategic Management Worth Reading

15 Essential Books on Strategic Management Worth Reading

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary” says Jim Rohn. Any big figure in management will give this advice at least once “Read!” Because Books are well-compressed data of some people and organizations’ lifelong experiences including their success strategies and ways to overcome failures. While there are many free online resources available, nothing beats opening a book to discover new and useful insights for your strategic management efforts.

To make things easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of 15 great books on strategic management. These books are here to give you the edge you need in our highly competitive world. So, let’s explore these helpful reads together and find the secrets to success in the business world.

Business Strategy: Managing Uncertainty, Opportunity, and Enterprise

Writer: J.C. Spender

 What constitutes strategy? For many, it involves the application of a theory, model, or framework. However, this book by Spender introduces a distinct and creative approach. He argues that effective strategic thinking involves leaders creating innovative solutions for uncertainties in the business landscape. Drawing from various fields, he emphasizes the importance of judgment, asserting that executives must actively engage with uncertainties, develop a language for their business model, and thus drive innovation. 

This crafted business model language not only shapes the firm’s identity but also communicates it to stakeholders. Spender’s accessible style and critical review of existing strategy tools contribute to understanding strategy as a practical, structured approach for managers and consultants. The book includes appendices on casework, teaching strategy, current texts, and further reading, making a valuable contribution to the field.

Another way to learn in-depth about business strategies is by learning from expert mentors. For instance, the Professional Certificate Programme in Strategic Management by IIM Kozhikode.  This course is designed for seasoned professionals wanting to enhance their strategic imperatives, enabling them to cultivate their leadership acumen and drive organizational excellence.

Return On Influence

Writer:Mark Schaefer

Return on Influence represents the pioneering exploration into how brands are strategically identifying and harnessing the influence of prominent bloggers, tweeters, and YouTube celebrities to enhance product awareness, generate brand buzz, and drive new sales.

In this groundbreaking publication, Mark W. Schaefer, a distinguished marketing consultant and educator, guides readers through the application of cutting-edge advancements in social networking and influence marketing, providing insights on:

  • Comprehensive explanations of the origins of online influence and its potential impact, either positively or negatively.
 
  • In-depth interviews with over 50 experts, including notable figures such as tech blogger Robert Scoble, Influence author Robert Cialdini, and industry thought leaders like Mitch Joel, Jay Baer, and Christopher S. Penn.
 
  • An insider’s perspective on the controversial social scoring company Klout, shedding light on its methodology for assigning influence scores to individuals.
 
  • Practical, actionable tips to enhance personal power and online influence.
 
  • Over a dozen real-world case studies illustrating the effectiveness of social influence marketing.
 

Whether you are already active on social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, or blogging, this enlightening and actionable guide demonstrates how to connect with the influential individuals who spark word-of-mouth epidemics and provides insights on how to become an influential figure yourself.

Blue Ocean Strategy: Expanded Edition

Writer: W. Chan Kim

Regarded as one of the most influential strategy books ever authored, Blue Ocean Strategy contends that intense competition leads to a crowded and fiercely contested market, symbolized as a red ocean where rivals vie for a diminishing profit pool.

Table of Contents

Drawing on an extensive analysis of 150 strategic manoeuvres spanning over a century and encompassing 30 industries, Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne assert that enduring success doesn’t result from engaging in head-to-head competition but rather from innovatively creating “blue oceans” — unexplored market spaces with ample potential for growth.

In a methodical fashion, the Blue Ocean Strategy lays out an approach to render the competition irrelevant, enabling businesses to carve out their own untapped blue oceans.

Blue Ocean Strategy Will Guide You Through:

  • Identifying the distinctions between red and blue ocean strategy
 
  • Understanding how blue ocean strategy diverges from traditional differentiation or low-cost strategies.
 
  • Restructuring market boundaries effectively.
 
  • Emphasizing the importance of the broader business landscape.
 
  • Expanding beyond existing market demand.
 
  • Overcoming organizational challenges.
 
  • Integrating execution seamlessly into strategic planning.

Hiring for Attitude: A Revolutionary Approach to Recruiting and Selecting People with Both Tremendous Skills and Superb Attitude

Writer: Mark Murphy

In a recent groundbreaking investigation, Leadership IQ, a training firm, revealed that 46 percent of newly hired individuals experience failure within their initial 18 months. Surprisingly, a staggering 89 percent of these failures are attributed to attitudinal issues rather than shortcomings in skills. From a strategic management perspective, this study underscores a common misconception among hiring managers, emphasizing that while skills are undeniably important, they are relatively straightforward to assess in an interview setting. 

Attitude is the driving force behind employees giving their utmost effort and transforming customers into enthusiastic advocates. It is that  that sets your company apart from competitors. So, in his book, “Hiring for Attitude,” esteemed leadership strategist Mark Murphy outlines:

  • The top five reasons behind the failure of new hires.
 
  • Two quick and simple tests to identify the attitudinal traits essential for your specific organizational culture.
 
  • A five-part interview question that prompts candidates to candidly share their last boss’s perception of them.
 
  • Insights into where successful companies discover their most exceptional candidates.
 
  • The six words frequently added by interviewers to behavioral interview questions undermining their effectiveness.

The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment

Writer: Robert Kaplan and David Norton

The developers of the innovative performance management tool, the Balanced Scorecard, present a novel approach that transforms strategy into an ongoing process involving not only top management but every individual within an organization. In their book, “The Strategy-Focused Organization,” Robert Kaplan and David Norton share insights gained from a decade of study and research encompassing over 200 companies that have integrated the Balanced Scorecard. Through analysis of over twenty comprehensive case studies, featuring companies like Mobil, CIGNA, and AT&T Canada, Kaplan and Norton showcase how these organizations have elevated the use of the Balanced Scorecard, turning it into a comprehensive performance management framework. This framework repositions strategy as the focal point of crucial management processes and systems.

Kaplan and Norton outline the five essential principles essential for constructing strategy-focused organizations:

1) Translating strategy into operational terms, 

2) Aligning the entire organization with the strategy, 

3) Making strategy a responsibility for everyone on a day-to-day basis, 

4) Embedding strategy as a continuous process, and 

5) Driving change through robust and effective leadership. 

Besides that, the authors furnish a thorough exploration of how various organizations, spanning the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, have successfully applied these principles to achieve significant and enduring enhancements in performance.

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

Writer:  James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras (Harper Collins, 1994)

In this book, James C. Collins and Jerry Porras steer away from discussing charismatic visionary leaders or revolutionary products. Instead, they delve into a more vital and lasting aspect – visionary companies. The authors challenge prevailing myths, provide fresh perspectives, and offer practical advice for those aspiring to construct companies that withstand the test of time. Grounded in a comprehensive six-year research project at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Collins and Porras scrutinized eighteen remarkable companies, averaging nearly a century in age, which have consistently outperformed the stock market since 1926. The book conducts a comparative analysis of each company with one of its top competitors.

In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies

Writer: Thomas Peters and Robert H. Waterman (Harper Collins, 1982)

A “New York Times” Bestseller for over three years, Peters and Waterman’s book uncovers the management secrets of more than 43 successful American companies across various sectors such as consumer goods, high technology, and services. Despite their diversity, these companies shared eight fundamental management principles. The authors illustrate these principles with anecdotes and examples from the experiences of the best-run companies globally.

Strengths Finder 2.0

Writer: Tom Rath (Gallup Press, 2007)

Tom Rath challenges the reader with a fundamental question: do you spend your time doing what you do best every day? “Strength Finder 2.0” is an evolution of Gallup’s earlier StrengthsFinder, introduced in the 2001 management book “Now, Discover Your Strengths.” Based on a 40-year study of human strengths, the book introduces a language of the 34 most common talents. The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment, included with the original book, gained widespread popularity, leading to a global conversation about focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses. “StrengthsFinder 2.0” builds on this, providing an updated online assessment and offering numerous strategies for applying and maximizing your strengths, promising to reshape your self-perception and worldview.

Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour Through The Wilds of Strategic Management

Writer: Henry Mintzberg, Joseph Lampel and Bruce Ahlstrand

Few books match the vibrant and engaging style of synthesizing the complete history and evolution of strategic management like this one. Strategy Safari, since its initial publication, has become an essential and enjoyable resource for managers, consultants, and academics worldwide. It’s not just widely read; it has crossed linguistic boundaries, being translated into over ten languages, including Chinese, Russian, and French, and has been integrated into prestigious MBA programs globally.

In the realm of strategic management, which often appears perplexing, Strategy Safari stands out by providing a sense-making perspective. Mintzberg, Ahlstrand, and Lampel present a comprehensive view of strategy making, coupled with an authoritative catalog that identifies ten distinct schools of strategy that have surfaced over the past four decades.

Navigating the extensive and confusing terrain of strategy formation can be a daunting task. However, with its clarity and depth, Strategy Safari acts as a guide, mapping the strategic landscape and facilitating intelligent and well-informed strategy formation.

Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World

Writer: John P. Kotter

When a new challenge or a great opportunity comes up, you act fast. You create a plan and put your best people in charge to make things happen. But even though things change, it’s not always quick or effective. The real value is lost, and eventually, everything goes back to how it was before.

Why does this keep happening in industries and organizations worldwide? In the exciting new book “Accelerate” (XLR8), leadership and change management expert John Kotter has an interesting answer. He also introduces a powerful framework for competing and succeeding in a world that’s always changing.

Kotter explains how traditional company structures were created to handle the daily tasks of running a business. For most companies, this structure is like the main operating system. However, this system isn’t designed for an environment where change is constant. Kotter suggests a new approach — a second, more flexible, network-like structure that works alongside the traditional one. He calls it a “dual operating system,” which lets companies take advantage of fast-paced challenges while still meeting their goals.

The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World

Writer: Walter Kiechel

Around fifty years ago, businesses lacked corporate strategy. However, in the 1960s, four pioneers – Bruce Henderson, Bill Bain, Fred Gluck, and Michael Porter – revolutionized business thinking. In “The Lords of Strategy,” Walter Kiechel narrates how they invented corporate strategy, reshaping the business landscape and kickstarting the multibillion-dollar consulting industry. The book provides insights into their groundbreaking impact on business, offering a compelling and at times, startling account of their transformative influence.

The book gives a peek into one should think about strategy in today’s world. Kiechel tells their story in a way that’s almost like reading a novel. Sometimes it’s inspiring, and at other times, it can be a bit scary. Overall, the book is an eye-opening account of how these unconventional thinkers and the organizations they led have changed the way one understands business. They not only transformed the very essence of corporations but also revolutionized the way organizations work.

5 Stages of Strategic Management Process

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Breaking the Fear Barrier: How Fear Destroys Companies From the Inside Out and What to Do About It

Writer: Tom Rieger

In companies, people can be afraid for different reasons: like not reaching a goal, missing out on a bonus, or losing decision-making power and respect. This fear makes employees and managers build strong barriers with rules that help some but hurt others. This book teaches how fear leads companies to bureaucracy, inefficiency, and failure in companies and proposes a solution where leaders can inspire their team members to demonstrate moral courage by creating incentive systems that appropriately balance both vital and moral aspects of courage.

Here are some key learning from the book: 

  • Obstacles Driven by Fear: Fear can drive employees and managers to establish barriers that favor certain groups but negatively impact others. If not addressed promptly, these barriers can proliferate.
 
  • Apprehension of Loss: The fear of losing something can result in bureaucracy, inefficiency, diminished morale, and, ultimately, failure.
 
  • Courage: Employees benefit most from essential courage, while moral courage is most advantageous for the overall well-being of the organization.

The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist's Guide to Success in Business and Life

Writer: Avinash K. Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff

This book is truly special because it gives you practical advice in a way that’s enjoyable to read. Steven Levitt, who is impressed by it, says he can hardly think of another book that combines useful insights with such a pleasurable reading experience.

Now, let’s talk about what the book is about game theory. Game theory is like a serious game of strategic thinking. It’s about figuring out what moves your opponent might make and being aware that they are doing the same to you. While some parts of game theory make sense and are easy to understand, a lot of it goes against what you might intuitively think. To really get it, you need to start seeing the world in a new way.

The authors use a variety of interesting examples from pop culture, TV, movies, sports, politics, and history to show that almost every interaction, whether in business or personal life, involves a game-theory aspect. If you can master game theory, it will boost your success in both business and life. This lively book is the key to unlocking that mastery.

Harvesting Intangible Assets: Uncover Hidden Revenue in Your Company's Intellectual Property

Writer: Andrew J. Sherman

In simple terms, if a business wants to stay competitive, it needs to make the most of what it has, like its ideas and creations. Unfortunately, many companies don’t realize the money-making opportunities hidden in their strategies.

In this interesting book, Andrew J. Sherman, the author, shares what he learned from working with top companies worldwide. These companies made money from things like patents, trademarks, customer info, software, databases, unique processes, and their employees’ knowledge. The book uses examples from big companies like Proctor & Gamble, IBM, and Google to show how any company, big or small, can use these strategies to grow, make money from research, and more.

The idea is that smart companies benefit from what they invest. This book gives readers the tools they need to make their business more profitable.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't

Writer: Jim Collins

Jim Collins studies companies that are consistently successful over time. He looks into how these companies grow, achieve excellent performance, and transform from good to great. Jim has spent more than ten years researching this topic and has written or co-written four books.

The findings of the Good to Great study might surprise many readers and provide insights into various aspects of management strategy and practice. Here are some strategy explained in book that made good companies great. 

  • Prioritize People First

Instead of immediately deciding where your organization should go, focus on assembling the right team. Ensure you have the right individuals in key roles before determining the direction.

  • Confront Reality Head-On

Successful companies on the path from good to great start by facing the harsh realities of their current situation. Addressing these facts honestly provides a solid foundation for effective strategic planning.

  • Identify Your Strengths

Discover the specific areas where your organization can excel and become the best in the world. Concentrate your efforts on these competencies and let go of pursuits that do not align with your strengths.

  • Continuous Improvement

Embrace a mindset of continuous improvement. Instead of settling for mediocrity, strive for excellence in all aspects of your operations. The goal is not merely to be good; it is to constantly pursue becoming better.

Jim Collins also mentions that some of the key concepts from the study challenge modern business culture and might upset some people.

Bonus Books on Strategic Management

The books mentioned above are gems of strategic management and the list is endless. These books give you deep insights and real-world scenarios of how great companies or organizations are being managed. However here is the list of the other books which are as worthy as above: 

  • Shifting your strategy from products to customers
 
  • Fewer, bigger, bolder: From mindless expansion to focused
 
  • The plugged-in manager: Get in tune with your people, technology, and organization to thrive
 
  • Harvesting intangible assets: Uncover hidden revenue in your company’s intellectual property
 
  • On becoming a leader
 
  • Swim with the sharks without being eaten alive
 
  • When genius failed: The rise and fall of long-term capital management
 
  • Purple Cow: Transform your business by being remarkable
 
  • The first 90 days: Critical success strategies
 
  • What management is
 
  • Strategy and structure: Chapters in the history of the industrial enterprise
 
  • The principles of scientific management
 
  • First, break all the rules: What the world’s greatest managers do differently

Final Thoughts

In summary, making foolproof plans in the complex world of strategic management is challenging due to many factors. However, books on strategic management offer valuable guidance to help people create effective plans for achieving goals. These books, authored by experts, provide useful insights for current and future leaders as they navigate the complexities of strategic decision-making.

 The recommended books serve as valuable resources, offering essential tools and perspectives for those looking to improve their strategic management skills. It’s a good idea for aspiring leaders to explore these books to gain inspiration and practical strategies for success.