23 best strategy books to help you excel at business strategy

This is a curated list of the best strategy books that I, and other partners you know from the FIRMSconsulting training programs, think are best in preparing you to understand, apply and excel at the development and execution of business strategy. We are going to recommend books that we have recommended for our clients and the partners use themselves.

These books teach you how to think like a partner. They don’t offer solutions.

strategy books management consulting

12 best strategy and critical thinking books recommended by Michael

Marketing Saves the World, Bill Matassoni’s Memoir 

Bill Matassoni’s (Ex-McKinsey and Ex-BCG Senior Partner) Marketing Saves The World  is a truly unique book. Never before has a McKinsey partner published his memoir publicly. This book is a rare opportunity – a true exclusive – to see what shapes the thought process of a partner and learn about marketing and strategy. The memoir essentially lays out McKinsey’s competitive advantage and explains how it can be neutralized. (Published by FIRMSconsulting.)

Irresistible Empire

Bill and Michael mention this book often as the one book that perfectly explains marketing from a strategy perspective. I would take this further and say this book explains business models from a macro-perspective and explains the principle of capitalism very well. It is a dense read but Irresistible Empire is worth looking into since it drives so much of the thinking in The Bill Matassoni Show.

From Third World to First: The Singapore Story – 1965-2000

From Third World to First is a book that has been mentioned in our podcasts far too many times to count. It is the key book mentioned in The MasterPlan Program. We are not recommending this book because we want you to learn about Singapore or how countries compete. This book helps you understand how to think strategically when you personally are coming from a poorer/weaker position in life. So think about the analogies to yourself when reading this book.

Marvin Bower’s Biography

There is no better book than McKinsey’s Marvin Bower to explain the philosophy of strategy and the way in which management consultants develop a strategy. What we do is very different from the way a researcher of strategy would develop a strategy. I highly recommend this book and have read it several times. Bill was a mentee of Marvin so reading both books will allow you to see things from both sides.

The Mind of The Strategist

Bill speaks highly of Kenichi Ohmae in his memoir. He is one of a few people Bill calls “brilliant.” The Mind of The Strategist remains one of a few strategy books we recommend to understand how to think critically. Now you can read Bill’s memoir, a book about Bill’s mentor, and a book by one of Bill’s close colleagues at McKinsey.

Succeeding as a Management Consultant

Succeeding as a Management Consultant is a book set in the Brazilian interior. This book follows an engagement team as they assist Goldy, a large Brazilian gold miner, in diagnosing and fixing deep and persistent organizational issues. This book follows an engagement team over an 8-week assignment and explains how they successfully navigate a challenging client environment, develop hypotheses, build the analyses and provide the final recommendations. It is written so the reader may understand, follow and replicate the process. It is the only book laying out a consulting assignment step-by-step.

How Countries Compete, Strategy, Structure, And Government in the Global Economy, by Richard H.K.Vietor

In How Countries Compete the author addresses what does it really mean for a country to compete, and how to do so successfully. We highly recommend this book to clients in government, state-owned-enterprises and emerging markets.

House of Cards, How Wall Street’s Gamblers Broke Capitalism, by William D. Cohan

House of Cards is another book on Michael’s bookshelf. “It was Wall Street’s toughest investment bank, taking risks where others feared to tread, run by fueled gamblers who hung a sign saying ‘let’s make nothing but money’ over the trading floor. Yet in March 2008 the 85-year-old firm, Bear Stearns, was brought to its knees, and the global economic meltdown began. With unprecedented access to the people at the eye of the financial storm, William Cohan tells the outrageous story of how Wall Street’s entire house of cards came crashing down. ‘Gripping …high drama …riveting, edge-of-the-seat reading’ – Michio Kakutani, “The New York Times”.”

The New GE, How Jack Welch Revived an American Institution, by Robert Slater

The New GE is one of the older books but it has a prime place on Michael’s bookshelf.

Made in Japan: Akio Morita and Sony

Michael says this biography of Akio Morita, along with “The New GE” above, are 2 books that convinced him to leave the sciences for a career in management consulting.

The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt

The Goal is a great book to read if you want to understand operations. It was reccomended by Michael multiple times, including in this popular episode from our Youtube channel which explains how to solve Operations cases. A factory may be an unlikely setting for a novel but this book is very effective in helping you understand operations. It is also quite entertaining to read. In fact, I had it as prescribed reading for my Operations course during an MBA and it is probably the most memorable book, case or article I have read during my MBA, so highly reccomended. 

Lords of Finance, 1929, The Great Depression, and the Bankers Who Broke the World, by Liaquat Ahamed

Lords of Finance is another book that has a prime place on Michael’s giant bookshelf. He says this is one of the few books that changed his thinking about finance in the last ten years. Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. “It is commonly believed that the Great Depression that began in 1929 resulted from a confluence of events beyond any one person’s or government’s control. In fact, as Liaquat Ahamed reveals, it was the decisions made by a small number of central bankers that were the primary cause of that economic meltdown, the effects of which set the stage for World War II and reverberated for decades. As yet another period of economic turmoil makes headlines today, Lords of Finance is a potent reminder of the enormous impact that the decisions of central bankers can have, their fallibility, and the terrible human consequences that can result when they are wrong.”

9 best strategy books and critical thinking books recommended by Bill

Thinking in Systems, A Primer, by Donella H. Meadows

Thinking in Systems is highly recommended by Bill. This essential primer shows readers how to develop the systems-thinking skills that Bill and many other thought leaders across the globe consider critical to succeed now and in the future.

Solving Tough Problems, An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities, by Adam Kahane

Solving Tough Problems – “Read this after you read Meadows,” recommends Bill.

The Opposable Mind, Winning Through Integrative Thinking, by Roger Martin. 

The Opposable Mind – Bill recommends reading this book after you first read Thinking in Systems and then Solving Tough Problems.

The Innovator’s Dilemma, When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, by Clayton M. Christensen

The Innovator’s Dilemma – “By the nineties, most books on management were just rhetoric, but this book is the real deal. A well-researched classic,” says Bill. 

Capitalism at Risk, Rethinking the Role of Business, by Bower, Leonard, and Paine

Capitalism at Risk – “There has been a lot of lousy thinking about this topic, but this book is well worth reading,” says Bill.

The Reflective Practitioner, by Donald Schon

The Reflective Practitioner – “This was a giant book for me as I sought to understand how professionals think and act,” says Bill.

Elements of Style, by Strunk and White

Elements of Style – “Because so many people don’t know basic grammar and can’t write a strong, crisp sentence,” says Bill.

Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman

Capitalism and Freedom – “This is the only book on economics you need to read. Yes, I’m biased,” says Bill.

Excellence, Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too?, by John W. Gardner

Excellence, Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too? – “This book raised America’s standards. Mine too,” says Bill.

2 best strategy books and how to succeed books recommended by Kevin

Live for Success, by John T. Malloy

Live for Success – Also available to be borrowed for 14 days for free from the Internet Archive website

Winning Through Intimidation, by Robert Ringer

Winning Through Intimidation – #1 New York Times Bestseller. It teaches you how to defend yourself against the intimidators of the world. The author argues that the results a person obtains are largely proportionate to the degree to which he or she is intimidated. So it is not as much your words and actions that count but your posture while you say those words and take those actions.

Celebrate the number of choices and options you have to learn strategy

Reading the best strategy books and critical thinking books above is a great start. But what if you want to take it to the next level. What should you do next?

Strategy thinking is not linear and we want you to understand and appreciate how messy it can be. At the end of the day, you want to think like a partner versus simply having a bag of tools to use. And this is what we do. By working through the programs on StrategyTV.com/apps, and especially through the programs on StrategyTraining.com/apps, you will be able to master the skills of consulting partners from major international firms like McKinsey and BCG, including strategy skills.

When I started my career there was no website I could go to to learn strategy. I personally cannot think of any website anywhere in the world even today, apart from the FIRMSconsulting platforms (FirmsConsulting.com, StrategyTV.com/apps, StrategyTraining.com/apps), that teach strategy in this step-by-step approach.

Developing a strategy that works and getting it implemented requires many skills. I know, it seems that is all about the analysis, but it is much more than that. Think of these problems you will likely encounter, and we will teach you to handle.

What is the real problem I need/must/should solve?

What is the scope of the problem?

How do I solve the problem?

How do I find the data?

How do I collect the data?

How do I change my approach if the data is not available?

How do I present my findings in a convincing way?

How do I convince people to follow me?

There are many more little steps to getting things to work. Our goal is to give you the skills and confidence to fully succeed. That is why we have such a comprehensive and in-depth range of training programs within Premium membership, and especially within FC Insider. So don’t be intimidated by the bounty of choice. Embrace it. Follow the guides and you will master this.

You have to put in the work. You have to make the decision this is worth learning.

I believe you want to and we want to help you achieve that goal. Just follow the guidance we provide and if you do not know where to start, the 21 Day programs are probably the easiest to start, finish and begin seeing some results if you are an FC Insider.

If you are a new Premium member then we recommend to start from The Consulting Offer (TCO) programs, even if you are not preparing for consulting interviews. TCO will help you develop a strong foundation before you can move on to more advanced programs like Strategy: Follow a full McKinsey et al Engagement.

If you have any questions about the recommended strategy books above or our membership level training programs do not hesitate to reach out to us at support @ firmsconsulting.com.

Cheers, Kris

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