..........  The Differences and Why it Matters - Richard Rumelt

A fantastic introduction to both the theory and practice of strategy. In a book category that is crowded and on a topic that increasingly finds it way onto executives CVs, Good Strategy, Bad Strategy stands out.

The case studies from contemporary organisations and global business history alike bring the theory to life.

At its core the book castigates organisations large and small for their propensity to dress up goals and aspirational financial outcomes as strategy and introduces the authors theory that:

  • Strategy is an exercise in problem solving 
  • You start with a Diagnosis
  • Then create a Guiding Policy
  • And to execute you need to take Coherent Action

This approach is contrasted with examples of  organisations mistaking the desire, drive and determination to achieve an outcome as strategy. Whilst these characteristics undoubtedly are an essential part of executing a plan simply joining them to a financial outcome is not strategy or if it is its Bad Strategy. Bad Strategy Rumelt tells us is at best a series of unconnected objectives at worst a series of conflicting objectives.

I really enjoyed this book and apply its principles with clients everyday; I have found MindMeister a cloud based mind mapping tool particularly useful in supporting Strategic planning meetings using this books two biggest take-outs:

  • The Kernel
  • The Proximate Objective

I wholly recommend this as a 'Must Read' to all executives as it was indeed commended to me.

Archi Stewart

Reviews:

This is the first book on strategy I have read that I have found difficult to put down. (John Kay, London Business School)

Rumelt's new book clearly elevates the discussion of strategy. Using compelling examples and penetrating insights, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy provides new and powerful ways for leaders to tackle the obstacles they face. The concepts of "The Kernel" and "The Proximate Objective" are blockbusters.
This is the new must-have book for everyone who leads an organization--business, government, or in-between. (Robert Eckert, Chairman and CEO of Mattel)

Rumelt blends a practical focus with powerful conceptual ideas to provide an insightful guide for those wrestling with the challenge of creating strategy that makes a real difference. (Mark Jenkins, Professor of Business Strategy, Cranfield Business School)

In his provocative new book, Richard Rumelt lays bare an uncomfortable truth: Most companies have strategies that are quixotic, muddled and undifferentiated. This is hardly surprising, since in recent years the very idea of "strategy" has been dumbed-down by a deluge of naïve advice and simplistic frameworks. Rumelt cuts through the clutter and reminds managers that the essence of strategy is a clear and differentiated point of view that supports forceful and coherent action. Drawing on a wealth of examples, Rumelt identifies the critical features that distinguish powerful strategies from wimpy ones-and offers a cache of advice on how to build a strategy that is actually worthy of the name. If you're certain your company is already poised to out-perform its rivals and out-run the future, don't buy this book. If, on the other hand, you have a sliver of doubt, pick it up pronto! (Gary Hamel, co-author of Competing for the Future)

Any executive reading this book will be motivated to examine the strategy of his or her firm, come to a judgment about it, and then work to develop or improve it. The many fascinating examples of good strategy provide great insight, but even more valuable are those of the `bad' variety. Rumelt writes with great verve and pulls no punches as he pinpoints such strategy "sins" as fluff, blue sky objectives, and not facing the problem. (James Roche, former Secretary of the Air Force and president of Electronic Sensors & Systems, Northrop Grumman.)

There are many books on strategy but none as good and thought-provoking as Richard Rumelt's Good Strategy/Bad Strategy. Building on solid academic foundations and using fascinating examples from business, politics and history, Rumelt exposes the many fallacies that surround this important concept while providing his own unique and refreshingly-clear approach on how to develop a coherent and successful strategy. This is a wonderful book, full of fresh ideas and practical advice, written in a clear and engaging way. It will change the way we teach and practice strategy. (Professor Costas Markides, Holder of the Robert P Bauman Chair in Strategic Leadership, London Business School)

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