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Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters [Hardcover]

Richard Rumelt
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)

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Book Description

9 Jun 2011

Even though everyone is talking about it, there is no concept in business today more muddled than 'strategy'. Richard Rumelt, described by McKinsey Quarterly as 'a giant in the field of strategy' and 'strategy's strategist', tackles this problem head-on in a jargon-free explanation of how to develop and take action on strategy, in business, politics and beyond.

Rumelt dispels popular misconceptions about strategy - such as confusing it with ambitions, visions or financial goals - by very practically showing that a good strategy focuses on the challenges a business faces, and providing an insightful new approach for overcoming them. His sharp analysis and his brilliant, bold style make his book stand out from its competitors (something that Rumelt himself says is crucial).

Rumelt has always challenged dominant thinking, ever since, in 1972, he was the first person to uncover a statistical link between corporate strategy and profitability - and this is his long-awaited tour de force.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (9 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846684803
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846684807
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 131,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


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

Represents the latest thinking in strategy and is peppered with many current real world examples. Good Strategy/Bad Strategy has much to offer and has every chance of becoming a business classic. The overblown language of many management books makes them hard going. Good Strategy/Bad Strategy is an enjoyable exception... (Management Today)

A milestone in both the theory and practice of strategy. Everyone involved in creating and applying strategy and strategic thing must read this book. In a very crowded field like strategy, few books stand out. Richard Rumelt's new work is one of the exceptions. (John Stopford, Emeritus Professor, London Business School)

Good Strategy, Bad Strategy pinpoints the polar difference: The diagnosis and actions that constitute good strategy, the fluff and failures that cause the bad. Richly illustrated and persuasively argued by a researcher, teacher, and consultant, Richard Rumelt has authored the playbook for anybody in a leadership position who must think and act strategically. (Michael Useem, Professor of Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and author of The Leadership Moment)

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)

Book Description

The magnum opus from 'strategy's strategist', shortlisted for the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award 2011

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I've been very impressed with this book and would be happy to recommend it to anybody who would like to define a real strategy.

By that I mean, as the book explains, not just churning out boilerplate wishful-thinking Vision Statements and Financial Projections, but a serious approach to creating a methodical and actionable strategy to overcome a seemingly infinite number of potential problems faced in business and every other sphere of life where strategic thought is required.

As a small business owner I have found this book to be invaluable for generating ideas and direction for my business efforts.

Another point that should be mentioned is to do with credibility. If you needed any further convincing that this book is a worthwhile read, buried a third of the way into the book is the fact that the author is a former NASA engineer, as well as a long-time researcher of strategy. He has interviewed many top level strategists, including the likes of Steve Jobs. The information shared is, by all accounts, very well founded.

Highly recommended.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris TOP 100 REVIEWER
As the title of this review correctly indicates, Richard Rumelt is convinced (and I agree) that a good strategy can provides both a timely head's up to imminent challenges and guidance when preparing to respond effectively to them. With surgical skill and (to my delight) a light touch, he explains what a good strategy is. In fact, he also explains what is and isn't a strategy, good or bad. Moreover, he cites dozens of real-world examples to illustrate which strategies succeed, which fail, and why. Both good and bad strategies are a result of a process so Rumelt correctly examines both good and bad processes, each of which involves a sequence of decisions. Thus a good strategy is the result of a process of correct decisions; a bad strategy is the result of a process of incorrect decisions.

One of Rumelt's valuable insights suggests that a decision is correct if (huge IF) it is appropriate to the given needs, interests, resources, and objectives. This is what Peter Drucker had in mind (in 1963) when observing, "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all." Many years later, Michael Porter made essentially the same point when suggesting that "the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do." Rumelt's purpose in the book is to awaken his reader "to the dramatic differences between good strategy and bad strategy and to give [his reader] a leg up toward crafting good strategies." Rumelt nails the "what," devoting most of his attention to the "how" and "why.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eminently readable and thought provoking. 24 Dec 2011
After working in a UK subsidiary of a major oil company I was taken aback by how much bad strategy I had witnessed over the years. When Rumelt talks about "Dog's Dinner Objectives" my heart sank. I vividly remember watching a 146 slide presentation on "Retail Strategy" which was to supposed to be a distillation of our core strategy! The chapter on inertia and entropy is thought provoking as well. The need for simplification in order to break organizational culture should be a wakeup call to CEO's of major organizations everywhere.
Highly Recommended.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear your head 25 Jun 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm not exaggerating when I say that reading this book made me think more clearly.

The author describes what strategy IS, and describes how to distinguish good from bad. It's the kind of stuff that's obvious - but only AFTER you've had it pointed it out to you.

He goes into a clear breakdown of what makes bad strategy (wishful thinking, not understanding the problem, etc.) and good strategy (knowing what the problem is, actionable etc.). The tips on how to detect bad strategy are worth reading. One of them is to watch out for "fluff" --- I love this definition of cloud computing from an EU report: "an elastic execution environment of resources involving multiple stakeholders and providing a metered service at multiple granularities for a specified level of quality-of-service". (In case you wondered what your EU taxes were being spent on).

It's easy reading and quite short, you can probably read most of it on a 2 hour flight, and it's worth the time; really recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Energising - a great book 1 Mar 2012
By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the first book in many years which has inspired me to annotate passages, and to try to memorise quotes, for future use. There is so much here of value to anyone in a position of responsibility. I have recommended this book strongly to colleagues, at least 2 of whom are now reading the book, and seem to be as fascinated as me by the simplicity, yet high relevance of the ideas.

This gets right to the heart of what can go wrong in organisations, particularly large ones. Strategy documents which are not much more than bulky laundry lists of desirable outcomes, with no prioritising of how to achieve them; lethargy; and 'that's how we have always done things', being unchallenged whilst competitive advantage is allowed to drift away are all addressed here, with clear recommendations about how to address the malaise.

Do read this book - I was energised and inspired by Richard Rumelt's analyses and solutions, and will return to this book again and again

Highly recommended
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Penetrating insights, splendid examples.
Published 23 days ago by Robert Grant
5.0 out of 5 stars The guy's like Pulp Fiction's Mr Wolf but for the business world;...
Simply, the most useful book for work I've ever read. The guy is like the Mr Wolf from Pulp Fiction of the business world, getting called in to take care of business by helping... Read more
Published 26 days ago by T. H. Woodnutt
5.0 out of 5 stars good and bad
I have found the book very interesting and has given me some guidance not only a good read highlights a lot of good points
Published 29 days ago by raymiddleton
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of common sense.
This is a well written book on a very important subject.
Absolutely spears the symptoms of bad strategy. Read more
Published 1 month ago by John
5.0 out of 5 stars The word 'Strategy' is over used; Richard Rumelt gets to the heart of...
A great book for anyone who needs to develop a winning business strategy. Strategy is not an ambition but HOW to manouevre effectively in a competitive marketplace to actually... Read more
Published 2 months ago by David Parrish
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opener for who reads well.
Despite the common sense, very few understand the meaning of creating a strategy. This book paves the road to learn to do it constantly in all the life possible experiences. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mauro Cogoni
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
This book really over-delivered on my expectations. I am an economics graduate and have been taught a great deal about the theory of the firm -profit maximization being the assumed... Read more
Published 2 months ago by banuk
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely illuminating
A sensible and often very entertaining look at a serious topic. Rumelt recognises that good strategy is pretty much independent of who and where you are, lessons learnt from huge... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Robert Hayward
5.0 out of 5 stars very insightful
I bought this book a while back and never got around to reading it until a few days ago. Since I picked it up I couldn't drop it! Read more
Published 5 months ago by Anthony E. Ezekwesili
5.0 out of 5 stars I would recommend this book on strategy
Rumelt is an engineer turned business strategist who shines a light on the characteristics of a good strategy. Well worth reading.
Published 5 months ago by T. J. Stephenson
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