Bring Your Questions for Strategy Guru A.G. Lafley

by Carlos Dominguez

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A.G. Lafley, former Chairman and CEO of Procter and Gamble is my hero among businessmen.  He doubled sales and quadrupled profits of P&G: need I say more?  And not only will I have a chance to engage him in conversation tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Executive Symposium, but you’ll have an opportunity to ask him to address your specific questions as well.  In reading his book(with Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management) Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works (a copy of which is included in your conference packet), here are a few of the questions I’m considering asking him.  Post your questions in the comments field and I’ll ask them as well.

Here’s some background: 

Lafley defines a strategy as a coordinated and integrated set of five choices

  • A winning aspiration
  • Where to play
  • How to win
  • Core capabilities
  • Management systems

Lafley outlines some of the ineffective ways that companies view strategy

  • Strategy is not just vision
  • Strategy is not just a plan
  • Strategy is not optimization of the status quo
  • Strategy is not following best practices
  1. You talk about ‘emergent strategy’ as a way some people view strategy in turbulent times; you say in rebuttal that strategy – long-term and medium-term – is possible in times of change.  How should the strategy be different or morph to respond to times of upheaval?
  2. PLAYING TO WIN: Lafley says there’s a difference between playing to win, and playing to play.
    a. Are the majority of organizations just playing to play?
    b. Do you perceive that it’s getting worse, that people are blaming the bad economy etc. on their inappropriate plan to just survive instead of win?
  3. WHERE TO PLAY: I’m particularly interested in the “where to play” decision.  Have too many companies adopted the old ‘build it and they will come’ concept?
  4. Where to play is also a decision on where NOT to play.  And deciding to change where you’ve been playing is a more difficult decision.  Let’s talk about the difficulty of divesting, or changing the status quo with regards to where to play.
  5. He cites “three dangerous temptations around where to play:
    a. Refusing to choose, or trying to play in all places at all times
    b. Buying your way out of a bad choice
    c. Being resigned to an unattractive choice”

Should be a great conversation! Post your questions here, or come prepared to take the mic and engage!