JP Castlin wrote a blog post titled Where to Play and How to Win: Introducing Roger Martin (October 8, 2021).

« Today, we turn to the amiable Roger Martin and his wildly popular Where to Play/How to Win framework. First introduced in the smash hit Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works co-written with former P&G CEO A.G. Lafley »

« At its heart, Playing to Win relies on five pillars: the winning aspiration, where to play (WTP), how to win (HTW), the core capabilities needed to win, and management systems required to support said capabilities… Put differently, if the aspiration is the larger what, WTP and HTW provide the detailed where and how. »

« No matter how much companies would love to be able to themselves delimit their opposition, simply naming a market segment, to paraphrase Byron Sharp, does not make it exist. »

« Consequently, the competitive set against which companies attempt to win on paper inevitably ends up being significantly wider in reality than they would like it to be  »

« No company will act in a vacuum, of course, but nor are markets zero sum games. »

« It is for this reason that the strategic ambition in the ABCDE framework does not include winning, but a shared understanding of success. »


Excerpts from response by Roger Martin:

« I would like to add some perspective on my views of winning and WTP. I am as keen as I am about winning not because I want to beat competitors but rather, I want to convince competitors to choose to invest behind a different WTP/HTW combination. That makes Playing to Win a positive sum construct not a zero-sum construct. Does Vanguard beat Fidelity? Or does Fidelity beat Vanguard? It would be hard to argue either. But do they both encourage the other to invest heavily in a different WTP/HTW than their own? Damn right! And who benefits? Customers, employees, shareholders (though the great Jack Bogle operated Vanguard as a mutual company so its fund holders were the beneficiaries not himself), and the communities in which they operate. Does Four Seasons beat its luxury hotel chain competitors? No, it encourages them to play elsewhere in different ways.  »

« Of course, industries are continuously evolving, with shifting boundaries and new players creating spaces that overlap with previously defined spaces. My view has always been that there are two possible reactions to this reality. One is to sit with your cash in the corporate treasury and wait until ‘things become clearer.’ The other is to make a bet based on your best guess as to what the playing field is now and how you think it is going to change (and how you might actually drive that change by your actions). The vast majority of executives do the former – and call it ‘emergent strategy’ even though that is not what Henry Mintzberg meant by it.  »

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