Five Strategic Choices from “Playing to Win”


I recently read A. G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin’s Playing to Win. The book presents five strategic choices that leaders should consider when trying to move their organization forward and achieve organizational goals. The relationship between these choices creates a cascading effect, where one choice prompts you to consider another choice.

If you have not considered your organization’s strategy, these choices are a good start. According to the authors, the five choices leaders need to consider are:

1. What is our winning aspiration?

This is the purpose of your organization, its guiding and motivating desires. It is your reason for existence.

2. Where will we play?

Determine where that winning aspiration has the potential to be realized. The answer may include a certain location, population segment, or other “playing field” consideration.

3. How will we win?

Determine your competitive advantage or your value proposition. The decisions should be directly related to the chosen playing field. Consider Ponderosa and Ruth’s Chris. They are both steakhouses, but their target audiences (playing field) are completely different. Therefore, their menu, service level, and dining environments (how they win) are equally as different.

4. What capabilities must be in place?

Ponderosa must be able to provide a steak at a much lower price point than Ruth’s Chris. Leaders must determine the core capabilities that are necessary to win in the chosen playing field. These capabilities must be attainable and sustainable.

5. What management systems are required?

These are the systems necessary to support the continuance of the choices made in 1 through 4.

For more on the choices, feel free to check out Playing to Win