Playing To Win

Untangling the roles of purpose, vision, mission, aspirations, and goals in strategy

Image for post
Image for post
Copyright: Roger L. Martin, 2021

I get many questions about where purpose, vision, mission, and goals fit in the Strategic Choice Cascade, because its five boxes don’t include any of those terms. So, I decided to address that set of related questions in this Playing to Win/Practitioner Insights (PTW/PI) piece, my 21st in the series. I will begin with purpose, vision, mission, and winning aspiration and then address the question of goals.

Winning Aspiration

In strategy formulation, it is common to see an organization create statements for each of purpose, vision, and mission, or at least two of the three. While I don’t object to…


Playing To Win

Don’t be lulled into thinking that having a plan will save you from the fate of not having a strategy

Image for post
Image for post

This represents a bit of a milestone: the 20th in my series of Playing to Win Practitioner Insights (PTW/PI). This one was started with a question a couple weeks ago about how planning relates to strategy, a question that I have often gotten. In the days after that question, I was shown ‘strategic plans’ from two different organizations that helped highlight the confusion and provided me the motivation to invest a PTW/PI on the question of Strategy vs. Planning.

Though from contexts that couldn’t be much different, the two strategic plans were virtually identical. They specified a Vision and Mission…


Playing To Win

How to Avoid the Monopoly Traps

Image for post
Image for post
Source: Jim Sizemore, Cartoon Collections

Businesspeople tend to dream about achieving monopoly status. It is a good thing in many ways, but a dangerous one too. There are two rules by which every monopolist should abide, but few do and hence monopolies tend to end badly. I am writing a Playing to Win/Practitioner Insights (PTW/PI) on this because there are strategy lessons for every business in this pattern of failure.

What is a Monopoly?

A monopoly exists when a buyer believes there is no viable alternative to buying the offering of a single provider — and by offering, I mean the product/service at the price…


Playing To Win

Utilizing the Can’t/Won’t Test and the Reality Check to Improve Your Strategy

Image for post
Image for post
Copyright: Roger L. Martin, 2021

Many people tell me they find confusing the distinction between How-to-Win (HTW) and Capabilities — and I recognize this confusion manifested in the Strategic Choice Cascades that they show me. Is our direct-store-delivery (DSD) system a HTW or a Capability? Is data a HTW or Capability? What about talent? And if we put that in the HTW box, what do we put in the Capabilities box? Aren’t HTW and Capabilities both about winning so why do we need both? …


Playing To Win

How to Make Your Strategy More Resilient

Image for post
Image for post
Source: https://rossdawson.com/world-2030/

Last week, a client asked me about the link between Playing to Win (PTW) and scenario planning. This was far from the first time that particular question has been asked, so I thought I would do this Playing to Win Practitioner Insights (PTW/PI)on the topic.

Some History & Context

Like many business tools, scenario planning started life in the military. Its origins are generally attributed to physicist Herman Kahn who introduced the tool to the US military in the 1950s while consulting to the military from the Rand Corporation. …


Playing To Win

If You Think that, You are Cruising for a Bruising

Image for post
Image for post
Copyright: John Jonik, 2018

Of the many excuses I hear from executives for not ‘doing strategy,’ the most common goes something like this: “My business is too fast-moving for strategy. If I stop to do strategy, we will get left behind. Plus, there is so much uncertainty and change in our industry that it is impossible to analyze any data about it anyway, so even if I wanted to do strategy, I can’t. I just have to act.” This is particularly standard fare in technology industries.

Businesspeople say non-sensical things about strategy all the time, so this response doesn’t really surprise or bother me…


Playing To Win

No, it is Certainly Not!

Image for post
Image for post
Copyright: Roger L. Martin

This subject of this Playing to Win Practitioner Insights (PTW/PI) is a bit of a pet peeve for me because I often get asked: Does the Playing to Win approach to strategy apply to B2B too? I get asked the question because Playing to Win was cowritten with former P&G CEO AG Lafley and uses P&G to illustrate the strategy concepts in the book. The logic behind the question is that P&G is B2C and therefore this technique applies only to B2C and one would have to use a different framework for B2B because B2B is so different.

The question…


Playing To Win

Why YOU have to Engage

Image for post
Image for post
Copyright: The New Yorker, 1992 by Peter Steiner

Two long term business trends, the rise of managerialism and the intensification of specialization, have conspired to create a strategy trap by encouraging general managers — whether CEOs, business unit Presidents, or product/brand/geography managers — to preside over rather than lead the creation of strategy. In this PTW/PI, I will argue that it is a dangerous trap, which general managers and their organizations need to avoid.

The Rise of Managerialism

The concept of management has been around for a long time. Greek philosopher Socrates discussed it extensively in the 4th century BC and even declared it to be a respectable…


Playing To Win

Why Thinking about them Independently will Wreck your Strategy

Image for post
Image for post
Copyright: Roger L. Martin

This Playing to Win/Practitioner Insights is a bit of a rant about a particular misuse of the Strategy Choice Cascade that is driving me a bit batty. In response, this PTW/PI is on the inseparability of Where-to-Play (WTP) and How-to-Win (HTW).

The Pervasive Sequencing Error

In the past couple of months, I have watched three separate PTW-loving organizations make the same fundamental error in the application of the Strategy Choice Cascade. The first was a national sports organization, the second a publicly traded biotech company, and the third a global consumer products company. In the first two cases, PTW enthusiasts…


Playing To Win

How to Generate Creative Strategy Solutions

Image for post
Image for post
Copyright: Roger L. Martin

I received such positive response to Strategy & Design Thinking — thank you — and specific encouragement to replicate the linkage between my body of work on strategy and yet another body of work, that I have decided to make this PTW/PI on Strategy & Integrative Thinking.

A Bit of History

I kicked off my work on Integrative Thinking in 1991 when I became curious about why giant global companies would hire an upstart firm like Monitor Company, led by 30-somethings (I was 35 at the time), to solve their most difficult problems when there were plenty of much larger…

Roger Martin

Professor Roger Martin is a writer, strategy advisor and in 2017 was named the #1 management thinker in world. He is also former Dean of the Rotman School.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store