Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE.
No tactic guarantees success, but asking the right questions can create a long-term competitive advantage.
By: A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin
Playing to win: How Strategy Really Works—written by an impressive duo: former Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley and Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto Roger Martin—is not just an insiders' tale of the workings of a successful global corporation. It's the story of how you can do what top brands do: Create and execute stellar strategy well.
Lots of books are published about business strategy, many of them either badly written or not relevant to associations, or both. This one is an exception.
Association CEOs and boards will find substantive how-to's on "managing what matters," "building capabilities," "playing to your strengths," and choosing "where to play." The authors conclude with five strategic questions to help you achieve long-term competitive advantage, including "Have you defined winning, and are you crystal clear about your winning aspiration?"
Resources such as the last chapter's playbook graphically depict an organization's "choice cascade," where the publication's tools—such as a "strategic logic flow chart" and "reverse engineering options"—best support strategy discussions and decisions. They also help you avoid six common traps, including the something-for-everyone strategy, the do-it-all strategy, and the Waterloo strategy ("starting wars on multiple fronts with multiple competitors simultaneously").
Although the authors emphasize that no perfect strategy exists, you'll get far closer with the help of this book. It will get you talking about the right things in the right way at the right time.
[Harvard Business Review Press; 272 pages; $27]
By Mark and Bonita Thompson
Everyone from richard Branson to Warren Bennis is applauding this book, and it's easy to see why: You're getting a professional makeover for less than $15, even if you don't adopt all 21 tools and tactics. Best of all, it's practical and doable. Tool #10, for instance, urges you to find a "goal buddy," noting that "studies show that having someone bug you about goals is more important than the expertise of the person who is giving the nudge." That removes any anxiety if you can't think of a colleague to tap but do have a friend willing to take your "ask-me-about-X-every-week" request to heart. Each chapter ends with "Put It to Work for You" exercises, so ready a pen. You'll have a clear road map to MVP status at work when done.
[Evolve; 223 pages; $12.99]
By Jim Slaughter
This short handbook is just the thing to pop into your briefcase for easy review before a board meeting or anywhere else Robert's Rules of Order apply. If you want a quick reminder of how to call a vote, make a motion, or troubleshoot, this book is a go-to. Especially helpful are the "parliamentary pointers" scattered throughout, which clean up sloppy language, clarify "can-and-cannots," and identify rule exceptions. Especially excellent are sections on writing effective meeting minutes ("pre-meeting skeletal minutes," anyone?) and solving challenges such as equalizing participation, handling a problem chairperson, and quelling member disruptions. A nice gift for new board members, too.
[Alpha—Penguin Group; 150 pages; $12.95]
Contributed by Kristin Clarke, a business journalist and writer for ASAE. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org