Too many strategy books are long on theory and short on pragmatics. But they’re not all like that. The aim of my own book, The CEO’s Strategy Handbook, is to provide ideas that CEOs and business leaders can actually use and apply immediately. And I’m not alone. Here are four other strategy books that I recommend to you as a great mix of provocative ideas and practical tools.

The Discipline Of Market Leaders: Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersma.  Strategy is all about making choices and Treacy and Wiersma show you how you can do this based on being uniquely valuable to your customers and enabling you to avoid getting lost in the crowd. In particular, the authors set out their three key strategic choices: should you pursue a strategy of Product Leadership, Operating Excellence or Customer Intimacy?

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference And Why It Matters by Richard Rumelt. Rumelt gets to grips about what constitutes an effective strategy, stripping it down to its basics of (i) an understanding of what’s really happening in your chosen market, (ii) establishing an overall approach for dealing with and/or exploiting this reality, and (iii) establishing and implementing a set of actions in line with this approach. Of course, the key question is why if the basics are so simple are strategies are so often bad? Rumelt answers this question with many examples from business, public life and beyond.

The Strategy Paradox: Why Committing To Success Leads To Failure And What To Do About It by Michael Raynor. I’ve often said that nothing fails like success and in this book Raynor articulates why this is the case and how business leaders can build in greater flexibility into their strategies, plans and organisations.

Big Think Strategy: How To Leverage Bold Ideas And Leave Small Thinking Behind by Bernd Schmitt. Too many strategies are, in essence, plans for incremental improvement not game-changing, disruptive moves. Schmitt provides tools and techniques for escaping the inertia of incrementalism and risk aversion to help you think and act much bigger.

Do you agree with this list? Which strategy books do you turn to for practical advice and ideas?

© Stuart Cross 2012. All rights reserved.