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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 (72 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.

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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 (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 181,718 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
55 of 57 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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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris TOP 500 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good anecdotes. Bad editing 27 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book, as its name suggests, has good points and unsurprisingly, bad points. It doesn't surprise me that opinion is divided in the reviews. First off, I think its a decent read and for the price, accessible and does provide strategy with a new angle and some media impetus.

Rumelt has taken some anecdotal theory, opinions, his practical experience and cleverly woven a reasonable justification for his theory that there are two types of strategy - good and bad. The anecdotes and theory in my opinion are more than worth the price of the book and the time invested. Overall, the point he is making is relevant as too many strategies today, fall into his definition of being 'bad.'

My mild frustration with the book, like others, was that he could have said much the same in fewer pages. I would argue that more readers would benefit this way. This author assumes too little of his readers sometimes when he overstates the obvious. In search of a succinct synopsis, I watched a You Tube video on Good strategy/Bad strategy, where he delivers a live presentation. Even then, he repeated many anecdotes in the book, yet provided the viewer with pretty much all the arguments that the book offers, within an hour.

I think Richard Rumelt can be congratulated for having the courage to write the book, but in future he might consider publishing similar in a shortened form, such as an essay or better still - a substantiated research paper. He certainly has sufficient knowledge, experience and talent.
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