Experts suggest 20+ must read strategy execution books
20+ must-read strategy execution books in 2022/2023
With hundreds, if not thousands of strategy execution books published annually, we asked 50 strategy experts for their top reads to give you a succinct list to choose from.
The list includes some classics that you may have heard of, alongside some lesser known titles. As we head towards Q4, we hope that some of these titles can help get your strategy execution off to a brilliant start in in 2023!
"The Art of a project Management by Scott Berkun was the first book I read in the space. And more Recently the book “Blitz Scaling” was very impressive."
The Art of Project Management covers it all - from practical methods for making sure work gets done right and on time, to the mindset that can make you a great leader motivating your team to do their best. Scott Berkun is the best selling author of seven books, including Making Things Happen, The Myths of Innovation, Confessions of a Public Speaker and The Year Without Pants
- Roland Butler, Head of Product, Zalando
Oliver Cummings, CEO of Nurole suggested Daniel Pink's 'Drive', due to it giving him a better understanding of what motivates his team. The book covers a variety of arenas for motivating people (School, work, and at home). The secret to high performance and satisfaction in today's world is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and the world.
Daniel H. Pink is the author of several books, also including New York Times bestsellingTo Sell is Human and A Whole New Mind
- Oliver Cummings, CEO, Nurole
Barry O'Reilly picked A.G Lafley and Roger Martin's strategy book, Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works, as one you should have read. The 2013 release gets to the heart of strategy, explaining what it’s for, how to think about it, why you need it, and how to get it done. Reviews of this book are glowing, and even come from authors of other strategy books on this list. A.G. Lafley, is a former CEO of Procter & Gamble, and Martin is Dean at Rotman School of Management.
- Barry O’Reilly, Business advisor, author, and founder
"High output management by Andrew Grove as it shows everything is process. Whether you’re compiling code, hiring staff, or making breakfast, everything can be modelled as a repeatable production process. Understanding the elements of production — inputs, outputs, timing, limiting steps, quality controls, variability — lets us create and improve the “machinery” needed to fulfil our organisational goals. We all aim to achieve the same thing: high quality results in less time with least waste."
- Ahmed Abdelrahman, CTO, Bayzat
Piers Mudd, CEO of INSEAD suggested 3 books for our list, the first of which was Good to Great by Jim Collins. Piers stated that Good to Great is a must read as it helps readers in "Understanding the importance of establishing company purpose and how to identify and engage with the nexus of passion, excellence and what drives the 'economic engine' of the business."
- Piers Mudd, CEO, INSEAD
Radical Candor by Kim Scott shows how the 'whole self' is important at all levels of how we show up to work, and how we interact, direct and ultimately enable each other to succeed as a team. Radical Candor gives guidance, including a mix of praise as well as criticism, delivered to produce better results and help employees develop their skills and boundaries of success. This title is available on Kindle, audiobook, and in standard formats!
- CEO, Cybersecurity SME
"Good Strategy / bad strategy - It's a book that uses very simple language to explain critical concepts of strategy formulation and execution." In this book, Richard Rumelt covers common strategy misconceptions by very practically showing that a good strategy focuses on the challenges businesses face, providing an insightful new approach for overcoming them.
- Sr. PM @ Amazon / Ex-Monitor Deloitte, 2000+
Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers. This book succeeds in "Clarifying just how hard the struggle can be, and therefore what it takes to push for successful execution." The title from Ben Horowitz is invaluable for veteran entrepreneurs as well as those aspiring to their own new ventures. The Amazon bio for THTAHT states that this title analyses the problems that confront leaders every day, sharing the insights he’s gained developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in, and supervising technology companies.
- Piers Mudd, CEO, INSEAD
This submission was described by one strategy experts (who's asked not to be named), as an interesting take on how partnerships and share schemes motivate growth. James Heskett, W Sassar, and Joe Wheeler give practical advice to delight your employees, customers, and investors.
- Head of Customer Success, Finance
7 Habits Of Highly Effective People was suggested by quite a few of the strategy experts. In this title, Stephen R. Covey gives a step-by-step pathway for adapting to change, power, and integrity, offering principles that give the reader security in a period of adapting to change. Although released in 2004, this easy to read and digest title is still consistently cited by those working in strategy due to its fundamental principles being as relevant now as ever.
- Shalom Passy, Corporate & Startup veteran, Consultant for Strategy Execution
Working Backwards gives an insider account of Amazon's approach to culture, leadership, and best practices from two long-time, top-level Amazon executives. The 2021 release from Colin Bryar and Bill Carr, shows how success is not just achieved by the mind of any single leader, but rather through universal commitment to a set of well-defined, and rigorously-executed goals, regardless of company size. This title is available in audiobook, Kindle, and hardcover.
- CPO of 2000+ employee company
Simon Sinek's second entry in this list. "(Start with why) helped us much better understand the critical thinking behind establishment of company culture and what it means to NOT have that in place." The expanded version of Simon's extremely popular TED talk helps readers discover purpose in their daily work, addressing the questions of Why are some people more inventive, pioneering and successful than others? And why are they able to repeat their success again and again?
- Piers Mudd, CEO, SME
Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products is a title that covers how best to use your employees. It's focussed much less on Who you hire, but more so how you enable them to work as a unit to solve complex problems. Marty Cagan uses his experience to explain how best to create inspirational visions for product and how you can best translate your strategy into action - starting to execute!
- Investor & board member of various F100 companies
Muhammad recommended Barbara Minto's 'The Pyramid Principle' as a must-read for those working in strategy. The Pyramid Principle has been described by many as less of a light-touch read, needing time to get your head around the books concepts and ideas. The Minto Pyramid Principle says that your thinking will be easy for a reader to grasp if you present the ideas organised as a pyramid under a single point. Perfect for conveying value in both product and strategy conception?
- Muhammad Chbib, Founder & CEO
"No rules rules would be my pick. It describes Netflix culture, and how the company was able to reinvent itself many times following the trends of the changing world." Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer touch on the topic of hard work being irrelevant, and some of the other more radical ideas of Netflix culture, including never, ever trying to please your boss. It's a lengthy read, but it's well worth it if you're looking to introduce some different cultural and strategic ideas into your company.
- Head of Product, Automotive Industry, Experience of 251-500 org size
Ben recommended 'Antifragile' as a book that made a difference to his views on strategy execution, suggesting that "It's the only way to think about resilience." The inside cover of antifragile description is 'Just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Taleb has identified and calls antifragile are things that not only gain from chaos but need it in order to survive and flourish.'
- Ben Westcott, Head of Enhanced Weathering, UNDO
Dominic Cameron, NED and Chairman of SaaS businesses recommended the second Marty Cagan book on this list, 'Inspired'. The 2018 release is defined as a master class in how to structure and staff a vibrant and successful product organisation, and how to discover and deliver technology products that your customers will love-and that will work for your business.
This book is for one and all, from early stage startups working on product/market fit, to growth-stage companies and large unicorn organisations.
- Dominic Cameron, NED and Chairman of SaaS Businesses
When asked for his suggestion, Ross Boyd said "this year it is 'Think Again' by Adam Grant". Think again came out just last year, and covers the critical art of rethinking, opening other people's minds and using that to succeed in strategy execution and life. This title also covers the art of letting go of those thoughts that are not feeding you, helping with mental flexibility.
- Ross Boyd, Founder, Credo
Not a week goes by without hearing Steve reference when 'Kale and Coffee Compete'. This title by Alan Klement is said to help readers become better at creating products and strategies that work, and that people will benefit from. Through this, it's said your joy at work will grow, and therefore so will the company, reducing waste and increasing profits along the way.
- Steve Higgins, VP Customer, Startups
Freelance brand strategy consultant Craig Wood submitted 'What Great Brands Do' by Denise Lee Yohn as his 'must-read' strategy book. What Great Brands Do reveals the seven key principles that the world's best brands consistently implement and presents case studies that explore the brand building successes and failures of companies.
- Craig Wood, Freelance Strategy Consultant
Thinking in bets, written by Annie Duke was Damien's choice, covering the key to long-term success, acknowledging that you can't win all of your bets. Annie explores important questions including 'What decision has the highest odds of success? Did I land in the unlucky 10% on the strategy that works 90% of the time? Or is my success attributable to dumb luck rather than great decision making?' A must have if you're working in strategy execution or conception.
- Damien O'Connor, Head of Delivery
Crafting and Executing Strategy By Thompson et al is one of the older submissions to this blog, but a gem nonetheless. Crafting and Executing Strategy covers the key theories in strategy and illustrate them with practical, managerial examples students can really relate to.
- Areen Shahbari, Expert in Innovation Strategy