Playing To Win

How to Make the Most of the Combination


I am frequently asked a consistent genre of question: How, if at all, does concept x or framework y fit with Playing to Win. For instance, how about Integrative Thinking, Design Thinking, Pay for Performance or Agile? I have already written on the first three in the Playing to Win/Practitioner Insights (PTW/PI) series. So, I have decided to make my 38th PTW/PI on Playing to Win & Agile.

What is Agile?

For the those who aren’t already aficionados, Agile is software development doctrine that dates from the release of The Agile Manifesto in 2001. The Manifesto espouses four values:


Playing To Win

It Impedes Playing to Win!

Copyright Roger L. Martin, based on data from: Donald Roy, Quota Restriction and Goldbricking in a Machine Shop, American Journal of Sociology, 1952

I am frequently asked about strategy and pay for performance. By and large, the questions aren’t at all neutral. The tend to be phrased as: Isn’t it really important to have pay for performance to get your strategy executed? It isn’t, as I will discuss in my 37th Playing to Win/Practitioner Insights piece: It’s Time to Accept that Pay for Performance Doesn’t Work.

An Article of Faith

We have long taken it as an article of faith that if you want performance against your strategy, you have to pay for it by way of incentive compensation. Hundreds of millions of…

Playing To Win

The Secret to Making Strategy Choices Even Better

Copyright Roger L. Martin, 2021

I frequently get asked a question about questions: What questions should I ask when I am reviewing a strategy? Because of that consistent interest, I am dedicating my 36th Playing to Win/Practitioner Insights piece to Asking Great Strategy Questions.

Three Categories of Questions

I am often asked to evaluate strategies, whether for clients, students, or friends. Rather than focus primarily on whether the strategy is good or bad, I focus on asking questions with the intention of guiding the authors toward their goal of creating great strategies. To provide that help, I ask strategy questions in three broad categories: logic…

Playing To Win

What’s Next After Strategy?

Copyright: Roger L. Martin, 2021

The interplay of strategy and planning is fraught with confusion. A testament to the interest in the subject is that Strategy vs. Planning: Complements not Substitutes is the second most popular of my first 34 Playing to Win/Practitioner Insights (PTW/PI). Another piece related to the topic, Strategic Choice Chartering, is also highly read, reinforcing the level of interest. Still, I get questions, lots of good questions, on the relationship between strategy and planning. So, my 35thPTW/PI is on From Strategy to Planning: What is Next After Strategy?

Going Back to First Principles

The most typical question I get asked is…

Playing To Win

How to Make Strategy Choices to Accelerate Your Career

Copyright: Roger L. Martin, 2021

I get many questions about the breadth of Playing to Win’s applicability. Does it work for start-ups? Does it work for non-profits? Does it work for functions? (Yes, yes, and yes) But only once have I been asked about Playing to Win for an individual, an insightful question with a broadly applicable answer. So, I decided to dedicate my 34th Playing to Win/Practitioner Insights (PTW/PI) to Your Personal Playing to Win Strategy

The Fallacies about the Modern Job

There have been vast changes in the structure of work over the past century. A century ago, nearly 90% of jobs were…

Playing To Win

There Can Be No Data About the Future

Copyright: Roger L. Martin, 2021

There was so much interest in, commentary on, and even befuddlement about Strategists: Stop Obsessing about Averages that I decided to write a follow up piece on related misuse of data analytics. My 33rd Playing to Win/Practitioner Insights is on The Pervasive Analytical Blunder of Strategists.

Modern Business Training

Modern business education trains all students to believe that good decisions are based on rigorous analysis of data, and strategy courses are certainly no exception. Managers who don’t make decisions based on rigorous analysis of data are presented as willfully incompetent managers. They know better. Yet they insist through sloth, arrogance, and/or ignorance in…

Playing To Win

How to Use Playing to Win to Make Sense of Digital Strategy

Source: Roger L. Martin, 2021

These days, the strategy subject about which I get asked most frequently is ‘digital strategy.’ How can my strategy benefit from digital transformation? How does Playing to Win apply to digital strategy? Because of the sheer volume of these related questions, I am dedicating my 32nd Playing to Win/Practitioner Insights (PTW/PI) piece to What is Digital Strategy, Anyway?

Why the Fascination?

There is endless fascination about digital strategy in the business world today, which if you are not engaging in, your company is written off as a dinosaur lumbering around in the 21st century just waiting to fall into a…

Notes from Industry, Playing To Win

The Only Way to Create the Future is to Pay Attention to the Outliers

Image Copyright: Roger L. Martin, 2021

I am utterly tired of the modern strategy focus on averages, whether means, medians, or modes. It is Achilles Heel of data analytics/Big Data/Artificial Intelligence. That is why I am dedicating my 31st Playing to Win/Practitioner Insights (PTW/PI) to encouraging strategists to go beyond obsessing about averages.

The Modern Focus on Averages

In world of strategy, all analytical guns have long been trained on means, medians, and modes. What is the most representative customer behavior? What is the biggest customer need? What is the average cost of our product? How do most people get information about our product? What is…

Playing To Win

The Two Skills Every Strategist Must Master

Copyright: Roger L. Martin

After two very macro-themed Playing to Win/Practitioner Insights (PTW/PI) pieces — about the strategy function overall and about a widely-used strategy tool — I am going micro, diving into the mind of the individual strategist with my 30th PTW/PI on the two thinking skills every strategist must master: Manipulation of Quantities & Appreciation of Qualities. For the insights that inspired this piece, I thank my friend and collaborator, Hilary Austen.

Manipulation of Quantities

Because of the origins of the practice, the prototypical strategy person is an analytical wizard/geek. Institutions tend to shape themselves in the image of a seminal figure…

Playing To Win

They Started in Separate Places but have Converged

Copyright Roger L. Martin

When I work with tech companies, I find it striking how ambivalent most are about strategy. They tend to see it as an unhelpful bureaucratic planning exercise in an industry is too fast moving for strategy. On the former, they are right to be skeptical. As I have written about in this series, most strategic planning is dominantly planning and not strategic. However, the latter is a fallacy that I have also written about in this series.

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.

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