Making strategy requires undertaking major—often irreversible—decisions aimed at long-run success in an uncertain future. All leaders must formulate a clear course of action, yet many lack confidence in their ability to think systematically about their strategy. They struggle to apply the abstract lessons offered by conventional approaches to strategic analysis to their unique contexts.

Making Great Strategy resolves these challenges with a straightforward, readily applicable framework. Jesper B. Sørensen and Glenn R. Carroll show that one factor underlies all sustainably successful strategies: a logically coherent argument that connect resources, capabilities, and environmental conditions to desired outcomes. They introduce a system for formulating and managing strategy through a set of three core activities: visualization, formalization and logic, and constructive argumentation. These activities can be implemented in any organization, and are illustrated through examples and case studies from well-known companies such as Apple, Walmart, and The Economist.

This book shows that while great strategic thinking is hard, it is not a mystery. Widely applicable and relevant for managers and leaders at all levels, especially executive teams charged with setting the course of their organizations, it is essential reading for anyone faced with practical problems of strategic management.

Advance Praise

caret-down caret-up caret-left caret-right

Sørensen and Carroll have developed an incredibly powerful yet simple way to build a compelling corporate strategy. After reading the book you’ll wonder why everyone doesn’t do it this way.
-Andy Rachleff, Co-founder, CEO and Executive Chairman, Wealthfront; Previously Co-founder and Senior Partner, Benchmark Capital

Making Great Strategy is about how managers SHOULD make strategy. Hindsight is always 20-20, but, while in the middle of figuring out what to do and what not to do, it is always important to 'think about how we think.' This book helps you do that.
-Michael A. Cusumano, SMR Distinguished Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and co-author of Strategy Rules (2015) and The Business of Platforms (2019)

Many books have been written about strategy, but few have fundamentally changed the way we think about the topic. Making Great Strategy does exactly this. By leveraging the discipline of Critical Analytical Thinking, pioneered at Stanford Business School, this book propels us beyond generating great strategy and towards the ongoing evaluation and revision of it. Both are essential elements to operating in a dynamic world.
-Michael Arena, author of Adaptive Space and Vice President of Talent and Development at Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Great strategy is the result of thinking critically. Winning businesses invest in their strategy … and nothing else. Making great strategy equates to making great investment opportunities which, by definition, means it is hard to do. So, the questions are: (1) How do you know before you invest if you’ve made a great strategy? and (2) How do you make a great strategy to begin with? This book will help you understand these are the same question … and it will help you answer it. Spoiler alert, the final chapter concludes: Logical Argument Is The Pillar of Great Strategic Leadership.
-Paul Branstad, Former Senior Partner, Director & Global Head of Strategy, Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., President & CEO, Safeharbor Advisors Ltd.

This is simply one of the best methods I've come across for how to devise, develop and deploy corporate strategy. It is a “must read” for every executive responsible for, or frustrated by, their own company's strategy. This book taught me not only how to pressure test our strategy, but how to constantly re-write it -- making us stronger, over and over again.
-David Rogier, CEO and Founder, MasterClass

More than ever, we need tools to argue in reasonable and robust ways, and to recognize and cultivate the wisdom of a group of people unified by a common vision and moving in the same, strategic direction. This book is a set of interlocking tools that creates systems & clarity, reveals biases, ensures equity in decision making and brings people together and achieve a common goal – a viable and robust strategy. This is not a checklist but a GPS for leaders and teams to create their own roadmaps to the future.
-Gail Crider, President & Chief Executive Officer, National Arts Strategies

Professors Sørensen and Carroll are esteemed social scientists who have brought an essential, transformative perspective to business strategy. Great strategies don't come from matrices, lists or machine learning. Great strategies are, at root, strong logical arguments--yes, innovative, competitively-focused, analytically rigorous. But, Making Great Strategy reinforces that it is strong logic, not intricate gnomic tools, that distinguishes great strategies from those doomed to fail.
-William F. Meehan III, Raccoon Partners Lecturer in Management, Stanford Graduate School of Business; Senior Partner Emeritus, McKinsey and Company; co-author, Engine of Impact: Essentials of  Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector.

Strategic success, Stanford Professors Jesper Sørensen and Glenn Carroll write, comes from the ability to ‘’step back, think critically and see the big picture’; and in this new book, they show you exactly how to unfold this deceptively simple approach to maximum advantage. I am lucky enough to have sat in Sørensen’s classroom, and it is his voice that I hear in my head when I seek to help others understand that strategy isn’t an abstract idea but rather it is about articulating a logical argument and unfolding its consequences. Happily Making Great Strategy means that many more will now get to share this powerful approach, and put it to good use.
-Genevieve Bell, Distinguished Professor and Director of the 3A Institute, Australian National University and Senior Fellow, Intel Corporation

Making Great Strategy: Arguing for Organizational Advantage cogently explains why strategy formulation requires data gathering, rigor, and hard-headed debate…no matter the strategic framework one might employ. The authors explain how making strategy this way will help blow off the fluff and drown the gibberish that is often presented as strategy…but is normally little more than hopes and aspirations. An excellent read and a most helpful guide for executives and MBA students alike.
-David J. Teece, Thomas W. Tusher Professor of Global Business, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley; Chairman, Berkeley Research Group, LLC

Kurt Lewin offered up the now famous maxim that “there is nothing so practical as a good theory”. Sørensen and Carroll help make that maxim a reality for practicing managers charged with the challenge of creating effective business strategies and developing shared understanding of these strategies. The work lays out the steps needed to construct well-posed strategic arguments, how to constructively challenge the premises of these arguments, and to elaborate their implications. It provides practicing strategists a path of logic, out of a potential strategic wilderness.
-Daniel Levinthal, Reginald H. Jones Professor of Corporate Strategy, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Sørensen and Carroll have debuted a new and innovative approach to strategic analysis based on their years of MBA classroom experience at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and their numerous engagements with executive teams. Grounded in solid academic research in analysis and logic, Making Great Strategy develops practical frameworks with engaging examples from the newest high-tech unicorns of Silicon Valley to the oldest manufacturing firms of traditional products. The book is integrative, engaging, digestible, and insightful, complete with guidance on how to implement the art and science of arguing strategy in your own organization. It is the whole package for managers who are looking to take their organizations to the next level of strategic advantage.
-John M. de Figueiredo, Russell M. Robinson II Professor of Law, Strategy, and Economics, Duke University

Making Great Strategy

Arguing for Organizational Advantage

Jesper B. Sørensen and Glenn R. Carroll, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University

About the Authors

Jesper B. Sørensen is the Robert A. and Elizabeth R. Jeffe Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is also the faculty director of the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies.

Glenn R. Carroll is the Adams Distinguished Professor of Management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He previously held senior faculty appointments at the Columbia Business School and Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.