"Understanding Michael Porter"

"Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy" 
by Joan Magretta

Michael Porter, of course, has been a leading theorist in all matters strategy and competition for a couple of decades. His books, in addition to being physically weighty are often intellectually weighty and not viewed as easy reads. Magretta, a former strategy editor for the "Harvard Business Review" and author of the excellent primer "What Management Is" has done a fine job at providing an accessible but informative overview of Porter's ideas in about 200 pages. 

Capturing the essence of the book in an epilogue, Magretta lists "Ten Practical Implications" of Porter's work. Those implications are:

1. Vying to be the best is an intuitive but self-destructive approach to competition.
2. Thee is no honor in size or growth if those are profitless. Competition is about profits, not market share.
3. Competitive advantage is not about beating rivals; it's about creating unique value for customers. If you have a competitive advantage, it will show up on your P&L.
4. A distinctive value proposition is essential for strategy. But strategy is more than marketing. If your value proposition doesn't require a specifically tailored value chain to deliver it, it will have no strategic relevance.
5. Don't feel you have to "delight" every possible customer out there. The sign of a good strategy is that it deliberately makes some customers unhappy.
6. No strategy is meaningful unless it makes clear what the organization will not do. Making trade-offs is the linchpin that makes competitive advantage possible and sustainable.
7. Don't overestimate or underestimate the importance of good execution. It's unlikely to be a source of sustainable advantage, but without it even the most brilliant strategy will fail to produce superior performance.
8. Good strategies depend on many choices, not one, and on the connections among them. A core competence alone will rarely produce a sustainable competitive advantage.
9. Flexibility in the face of uncertainty may sound like a good idea, but it means that your organization will never stand of anything or become good at anything. Too much change can be just as disastrous for strategy as too little.
10. Committing to a strategy does not require heroic predictions about the future. Making that commitment actually improves your ability to innovate and to adapt to turbulence. 

I highly recommend this book.