The best strategic planning books

Many authors have picked their favorite books about strategic planning and why they recommend each book.

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Designing Organizations

By Jay R. Galbraith,

Book cover of Designing Organizations: Strategy, Structure, and Process at the Business Unit and Enterprise Levels

Jay Galbraith was the godfather of organization design. His work on how to design organizations has been the foundation of future work. He provides a system model with five parts (his star model) to diagnose and improve the organization. He also highlights the importance and role of information that flows from good organization design which was ahead of its time.

Who am I?

Dave Ulrich is the Rensis Likert Professor at the Ross School of Business and a partner at the RBL Group, a consulting firm focused on helping organizations and leaders deliver value. He has published over 200 articles and book chapters and over 30 books. The organizations where we live, work, play, and worship affect every part of our lives. Organizations turn individual competencies into collective capabilities, isolated events into sustained patterns, and personal values into collective values. In short, organizations matter in our lives. By adapting their answer to “what is an organization,” leaders, employees, customers, and investors will be better able to improve their organization's experiences.

I co-authored...

Reinventing the Organization: How Companies Can Deliver Radically Greater Value in Fast-Changing Markets

By Dave Ulrich, Arthur Yeung,

Book cover of Reinventing the Organization: How Companies Can Deliver Radically Greater Value in Fast-Changing Markets

What is my book about?

In today’s changing world, your company needs to manage information, be agile, focus on customers, and discover innovation.  The new organization form (Market Oriented Ecosystem … MOE) draws on numerous models: agile, networked, holacracy, and remarkable cases including Tencent, Alibaba, Google, Facebook to distill 6 principles for creating an organization that delivers employee, strategy, customer, and financial results.  This work is a roadmap for the new organization journey.

Testing Business Ideas

By David J. Bland, Alex Osterwalder,

Book cover of Testing Business Ideas: A Field Guide for Rapid Experimentation

David and Alex have written the definitive reference book for product experiments. Forty-four ways for you to learn quickly and efficiently whether you’re building something of value. This book is beautifully illustrated and infinitely practical.

Who am I?

Jeff has been a UX designer, team leader and product manager for over 20 years. His work in the field helped define some of the key practices product managers use today. Building a customer-centric practice is key to successful products and services and Jeff has demonstrated that not only in the products and companies he’s helped build but in the writing and thinking he’s contributed to the product managaement community.

I wrote...

Forever Employable: How to Stop Looking for Work and Let Your Next Job Find You

By Jeff Gothelf,

Book cover of Forever Employable: How to Stop Looking for Work and Let Your Next Job Find You

What is my book about?

After spending the first 10 years of his career climbing the corporate ladder, Jeff Gothelf decided to change his approach to staying employed. Instead of looking for jobs, they would find him. Jeff spent the next 15 years building his personal brand to become a recognized expert, consultant, author, and public speaker.

In this highly tactical, practical book, Jeff Gothelf shares the tips, tricks, techniques, and learnings that helped him become Forever Employable. Using the timeline from his own career and anecdotes, stories and case studies from other successful recognized experts Jeff provides a step-by-step guide to building a foundation based on your current expertise ensuring that no matter what happens in your industry you'll remain Forever Employable. 

Competitive Strategy

By Michael E. Porter,

Book cover of Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors

Porter, the strategy guru from Harvard Business School, created the field of competitive analysis, out of which we grew my field of competitive intelligence. This book is the “bible” for every manager out there looking to understand where risks and opportunities come from, and how to take advantage of both (risks can be as profitable as opportunities if you learn of them earlier than others). Over the years, academics and consultants attempted to poke holes in Porter’s basic analysis frameworks to no avail. It remains the only surviving framework used by strategic planners worldwide and outlasted fads and buzz words such as re-organization, blue ocean theory, core competency model, “hyper-competition” misconception, and “business models.” Porter is to strategy what Peter Drucker was to general management. I use these frameworks to train competition analysts all over the world. 

Who am I?

I am always fascinated by how smart people and big companies are blind to risks and opportunities under their noses. Then one day I had a chance to start training them to avoid bad surprises. Based on my unusual background (combination of police intelligence and advanced economics degree) I created the Academy of Competitive Intelligence. It has become the leading global school for avoiding dumb decisions. It now has 10,000 corporate alumni! I didn’t plan it; I didn’t sit down and had a great business plan. I just spotted an opportunity and I grabbed it. Maybe you should do the same? My book tells you how.

I wrote...

The Opposite of Noise: The Power of Competitive Intelligence

By Benjamin Gilad,

Book cover of The Opposite of Noise: The Power of Competitive Intelligence

What is my book about?

This book is the ultimate defense against organizational noise–the obsessive chase after more and more data that is the opposite of strategic insight. Data noise turns whole organizations into paralyzed data junkies and masks true market opportunities. Noise’s exponential rise with AI platforms demands a new approach to harnessing human talent in companies to stay ahead of the competition. Those who understand this will swim. Those who don’t will drown in the noise. 

Your Business, Your Book

By Ginny Carter,

Book cover of Your Business, Your Book: How to plan, write, and promote the book that puts you in the spotlight

Ginny Carter is another very experienced ghostwriter and in this book, she explains exactly why it is good for business people to write books in order to promote themselves, their companies, and their products. Since most successful business people do not have the time to write the books themselves, her eloquent arguments will inevitably lead them to hiring ghostwriters such as Ginny – and myself.

Who am I?

I have been a ghostwriter for over thirty years, publishing more than a hundred books under other people’s names, as well as those under my own name. It has allowed me to live a hundred different and varied lives and it is a profession I like to encourage all writers to consider. Several of my own novels have featured ghostwriters as central characters, including Secrets of the Italian Gardener and What Lies Around Us.

I wrote...


By Andrew Crofts,

Book cover of Ghostwriting

What is my book about?

This was one of the first books explaining what ghostwriters do, how to become one, or how and why to hire one. Robert Harris quoted it extensively in his bestselling thriller, The Ghost.

Good Strategy Bad Strategy

By Richard Rumelt,

Book cover of Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters

There are thousands of strategy books, from personal success strategies to business strategies to financial strategy. This is one of the best I’ve read so far. It’s insightful, colorful, to the point, and paints a very vivid picture of what it takes to develop a good strategy, a concept that is not too easy to define. Precisely what is strategy? This book demonstrates that it is the skilled approach and the ability to move resources and people to achieve an objective. While the book uses many business examples, I think the lessons can be deducted for any industry if you have a desire to get ahead.

Who am I?

I'm fascinated by how our world operates, from the macro-level to the microlevel and metaphysics. It creates more depth and makes life infinitely colorful and exciting, even in the most mundane things. I've been studying personal development and spirituality for almost 20 years now, and I find the journey of growth and becoming to be rewarding. Books that help me expand my horizon and think differently enable this process, and I find that to be exciting.

I wrote...

One Million Steps: Lessons From A Legendary Hike

By Ngan H. Nguyen,

Book cover of One Million Steps: Lessons From A Legendary Hike

What is my book about?

Stretching 500-miles across the northern part of Spain is the Camino Francés of the Camino de Santiago. A pilgrimage to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. It was by fate that I found this path, and it became one of the most incredible adventures of my life. The path was a unique window into historical, natural, and cultural beauty, but even more than that, it was a walk into more depth within my own being. It became a journey of healing and self-discovery.

In this book, I tell the story of that adventure as well as the countless powerful lessons I learned. May these lessons shine more light on your journey to whatever destination that may be pulling at your consciousness at this moment.

Good to Great

By Jim Collins,

Book cover of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't

This classic book focuses on the core issue of how great companies achieve long-term sustained performance. It is a sequel to the author’s earlier book, Built to Last. Good to Great is based on research that compares a defined set of ‘great companies” (including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck) with a comparison set of so-called “good companies” companies that failed to make the leap to greatness. Although General Electric subsequently fell from grace and now is in revitalization, the analysis and sample of companies selected as examples of greatness are reasonable and the overall analysis generally valid.

The book makes a contribution by identifying some of the “dos” and “don’t’s” for companies desiring to achieve greatness or what we have termed “business champions.” The book also provides some constructs (including some from Built to Last) to assist the journey from good to great, including the notion of…

Who am I?

I'm Professor Emeritus at UCLA and have also been on the faculty of Columbia University and The University of Michigan, where I received my PhD degree. I founded Management Systems Consulting, which works with entrepreneurial firms in the US and globally to scale up, in 1978. I've served on the board of a firm (99 Cents Only Stores) that scaled up and was a NYSE listed firm. I've advised CEOs who have created global champion firms and been recognized as leaders in their space. I've authored or co-authored several books including Creating Family Business Champions; Corporate Culture: The Ultimate Strategic Advantage; Changing the Game; and Leading Strategic Change.

I wrote...

Growing Pains: Building Sustainably Successful Organizations

By Eric G. Flamholtz, Yvonne Randle,

Book cover of Growing Pains: Building Sustainably Successful Organizations

What is my book about?

This book is about managing the stages of growth successfully from a start-up to a sustainably successful organization and/or even becoming a global champion or recognized leader in your space like Starbucks, which was one of the author’s clients during its early years from 1994-97. The book provides a framework and template to create a road map for organizational development and a set of methodologies to help scale up and become a sustainably successful organization and/or even become a global champion. It presents a framework of the key stages of organizational growth and identifies the set of variables that must be managed as well as their relative importance at each stage. The book provides advice for the CEO and founder of entrepreneurial companies undergoing the process of scaling up.

Playing to Win

By A.G. Lafley, Roger L. Martin,

Book cover of Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works

My own early experiences with strategy were pretty uninspiring – slow, incremental, and almost entirely analytical. But the framework that Roger and AG lay out in Playing to Win changed it all for me. It’s practical. It’s understandable. And it is aimed at not just understanding the world as it is, but at imaging a world that might be different… and forging a real strategy to bring that new world to life. The book is based on the approach to strategy Roger honed in his career as a management disclosure and that AG practiced as CEO at Procter & Gamble. Full disclosure, I helped them as they were writing the book – and honestly think it is the best book on strategy of the past 30 years.

Who am I?

I am a writer, teacher, and partner at IDEO, the global design and innovation firm. Before IDEO, I spent more than a decade teaching university undergrads and MBAs to create better choices, in their work and their lives. Now, I work with business leaders to help them do the same thing, at the intersection of design and strategy. I believe that one key to getting to those better choices is the ability to understand, reflect on and, yes, even improve our own way of thinking and engaging with the world. The books on this list have shifted my own understanding of the world and how I think. I hope they inspire and challenge you as well. 

I wrote...

Creating Great Choices: A Leader's Guide to Integrative Thinking

By Jennifer Riel, Roger L. Martin,

Book cover of Creating Great Choices: A Leader's Guide to Integrative Thinking

What is my book about?

When it comes to our hardest choices, it can seem as though making trade-offs is inevitable. But what about those crucial times when accepting the obvious trade-off just isn't good enough? What do we do when the choices in front of us don't get us what we need? In those cases, rather than choosing the least worst option, we can use the models in front of us to create a new and superior answer. This is integrative thinking.

Creating Great Choices is a field guide to integrative thinking. The book includes fresh stories of successful integrative thinkers that will demystify the process of creative problem solving, as well as practical tools and exercises to help readers engage with the ideas. 

The Moment of Clarity

By Christian Madsbjerg, Mikkel B. Rasmussen,

Book cover of The Moment of Clarity: Using the Human Sciences to Solve Your Toughest Business Problems

Authors Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen run consulting company ReD, where they put ​​anthropologists, sociologists, economists, journalists, and designers together to deeply understand humans in service of their clients. In The Moment of Clarity, the authors share their methods and approach via rich case studies, including their impactful work supporting LEGO in better aligning its products to its customers.

Who am I?

After a career that took me from designer to design professor, I’ve spent the past decade leading user research practices for growing product organizations. I’m excited about user research because it positions us closer to the people we design for, and challenges us to capture and explain complex scenarios in service to them. Though there are many books that teach user research, my list of recommendations is meant to demonstrate why we research, how we make sense of what we learn, and where research might take us.

I wrote...

Research Practice: Perspectives from UX researchers in a changing field

By Gregg Bernstein,

Book cover of Research Practice: Perspectives from UX researchers in a changing field

What is my book about?

This book is not an argument for doing user research. Nor is it a tutorial or toolkit for common methodologies. It won’t show you how to run a usability session or recruit users remotely. Research Practice captures the day-to-day of the practice itself—what it looks like to work with peers and stakeholders, to raise awareness of research, to make tradeoffs, and to build a larger team.

Research Practice takes you inside the field of applied user research through the stories and experiences of the people doing the work.

Blown to Bits

By Philip Evans, Thomas S. Wurster,

Book cover of Blown to Bits: How the New Economics of Information Transforms Strategy

This book described the economics of the internet age as the web was taking off. It remains a classic in that it not only predicted many of the transformations that were to play out on the web, including social media, and it continues to be useful as a template for predicting the coming transformations that will be wrought by Web3 and Blockchain.

Who am I?

I have taught marketing strategy to MBAs and Executives at Business Schools and companies around the world, and have consulted for major companies in financial services, consumer packaged goods, software, and others for over three decades. Some of my Harvard Business Review articles are among the review’s bestsellers, and my book on marketing strategy, TILT: Shifting Your Strategy from Products to Customers, received the best business book award in 2014. I run a marketing strategy consultancy at Brand Strategy Group with clients on three continents. 

I wrote...

Tilt: Shifting Your Strategy from Products to Customers

By Niraj Dawar,

Book cover of Tilt: Shifting Your Strategy from Products to Customers

What is my book about?

This book is an antidote to product-centricity. Businesses in technology, pharma, materials, commodities, and even financial services all suffer from a turgid obsession with their product. Everything within the business is defined by the product – in fact, if you ask managers what business they’re in, they’ll talk about the product. Measures of success are product-based (units sold, market share), behaviors are linked to product moved (quotas), and even innovation is defined solely in terms of better products.

TILT helps you rethink not just the product focus, but what an organization should look like to become more customer-centric. It takes you through the thought process with sparkling examples and practical checklists. If you want to make your business more customer-centric, start with this book.

Your Next Five Moves

By Patrick Bet-David,

Book cover of Your Next Five Moves: Master the Art of Business Strategy

In this great read, Patrick bet David opens the opportunity to strategize on planning ahead. In this book, there is the opportunity to clarify where you want to be in life and how you plan to get there. The path begins with understanding how you personally identify yourself, to how you plan to take action on it. After gaining clarity on who you are as a person, you then are able to enhance your strategy as a leader. This book gave great insight to people who feel that they are stuck in a limited place or position, exposing them to their full potential and endless possibilities. 

Who am I?

When writing about the everyday challenges that women face within the workplace, I aim to express the events that occur before, during, and after the experience. Unpopular belief, life doesn’t go back to normal for most of us, as getting back to normal from any traumatic experience will leave you shielded. I found my voice through writing about my passion for enabling female empowerment. My path as a woman in leadership came from understanding the lack of consistent supportive resources, encouragement, and validation, amongst women in the workplace. Through my writing, I aim to creatively empower and encourage my readers to find their voice. 

I wrote...

Jaded Choyce

By Shaynuh Sloane,

Book cover of Jaded Choyce

What is my book about?

30 year old urban professional, Chloe choice, has a plan to start a better life for her and her family, starting with her federal career. As she transitions from one organization to another, she hopes to make a positive difference on the road to achieving her professional goals. The situation reaches a head when Chloe discovers that her work environment is far from what it appears to be. As she learns along the way, she faces challenges from her unsupportive employer, leading her to fend for herself while trying to escape the career she once thought she wanted.

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