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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wealth of research and experience, all clearly laid out
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...
Published on 14 Jun 2011 by Luke Spear

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good anecdotes. Bad editing
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...
Published 16 months ago by Laurence Dann


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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wealth of research and experience, all clearly laid out, 14 Jun 2011
By 
Luke Spear (Derbyshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars How and why a good strategy "acknowledges the challenges being faced and provides an approach to overcome them", 9 Aug 2011
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
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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."

Here is a partial list of the real-world situations that Rumelt rigorously examines:

o How Steve Jobs saved Apple
o General Schwarzkopf's strategy in Desert Storm
o Discovering Wal-Mart's secret
o How blue-sky objectives miss the mark
o Pivot points at 7-Eleven and the Brandenburg Gate

Note: More about "pivot points' later

o Why Kennedy's goal of landing on the moon was a proximate and strategic objective
o [How] Hannibal defeats the Roman army in 216 B.C.
o What bricklaying teaches us about deepening advantage
o Deduction is enough only if you know everything worth knowing
o The worst industry structure imaginable

These and other mini-case studies reveal why strategy is, like a scientific hypothesis, "an educated prediction of how the world works. The ultimate worth of a strategy is determined by its success, not its acceptability to a council of philosophers or a board of editors. Good strategy work is necessarily empirical and pragmatic. Especially in business, whatever grand notions a person may have about the products or services the world might need, or about human behavior, or about how organizations should be managed, what does not actually `work' cannot long endure." Amen.

With regard to "pivot points," they magnify impact of an effort. "It is s natural or created imbalance in a situation, a place where a relatively small adjustment can unleash much larger pent-up forces." For example, in the business world, a strategic thinker "senses such imbalances in pent-up demand that has yet to be fulfilled or in a robust competence developed in one context that can be applied to good effect in another." In m y opinion, pivot points seem to be first cousins to Michael Kami's trigger points, Andy Grove's inflection points, and Malcolm Gladwell's tipping points. Obviously, a good strategy takes full advantage of every opportunity that pivot points offer.

Those who share my high regard for this brilliant book are urged to check out Walter Kiechel III's The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World.
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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
By 
J. Erlank (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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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
By 
Laurence Dann "LD strategy" (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good read, 29 Jan 2012
By 
Welwynmariner (Welwyn Garden City, Herts, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I've always enjoyed Richard Rumelt's articles and his book is a very readable example packed account of good and not so good strategic thinking.

It lies in the half way house between academic theory and personal anecdote beloved of successful entrepreneurs who encourage you to "do it their way". Rumelt disects the jargon and cliche driven approaches you find in other works. It's a steal.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 18 Sep 2011
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'Strategy' is among the most over-used words in business. This book breaks strategy down, describes its proper sense, and gives practical examples to illuminate the benefits of true strategy.

The book is a very entertaining, informative read. I would recommend it to anyone in a decision-making position.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real, slap the forehead, why didnt I think of that?, 31 July 2011
By 
Kristin "I read so I don't kill people!" (Wiltshire) - See all my reviews
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I downloaded the kindle sample, as usual with these books to see if I thought I could bear it enough to actually read it. But what I found was a book so interesting that I actually went straight ahead and bought the whole thing within minutes, and then continued to read it. The real world examples of what was going wrong make such a difference to this book, and they are examples you will have heard about like a recent war.

Totally refreshing book on the subject, and one to read either if you are new to writing strategies, or have hit a rut with writing so many that they all just feel churned out and ineffective. This book should actually be forced onto many senior civil servants to make them think about what they have done.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensible. No pompous jargon., 10 July 2011
A very sensible account about strategy. The most refreshing aspect is the lack of abused pompous jargon often found in strategy related books.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The art of making things simple, 14 Sep 2014
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I've heard it said that the hallmark of genius is being able to take relatively complex subjects and make them simple to understand. Certainly, I've found myself it takes absolute mastery of a subject to really be able to convincingly whittle things down to a simple model.

Richard Rumelt attempts and (I think) achieves this not only with a clear concept (what he calls the "kernel") but with very sound and thoroughly researched justifications. But he doesn't stop there.

For example, he shows the effect of varying the "diagnosis" (the first part of the kernel) and how that can radically change the strategy, with detailed analyses of real situations. This goes beyond the normal "statement of the bleeding obvious" (e.g. the success of Gerstner's IBM's transformation into a service organisation being the salvation of the company) into a detailed walk through of how other analysts' conventional wisdom got it wrong.

I'm not going to summarise the book (you can look at the contents and "Look Inside" features for that), but students of strategy will see familiar concepts here: current situation/challenge definition (the "diagnosis"), policy and coherent action plans. True, all of this and perhaps even more is covered in other works, by Porter and others. And of course outlining the bad helps throw the good into stark relief.

But what I think you'll find here is something I've not seen often enough in strategy writing. Beyond the relatively standard and proven methods like Porter's Five Forces (for which he gives full credit), and case studies, what you'll get here is a keen analysis that breaks things down to the common sense fundamentals. This analysis is backed up with solid research, across so many sectors, that you will probably find some parallels to your situation.

So, you don't just get why the IBM's transformation strategy worked, you'll get a critical analysis of their prior situation and all the other so-called leading opinions on the subject at the time, including how they missed the mark by forgetting some simple basics (in this case, knowing the unique strengths). All of this is backed up with good use of analogy, to help you absorb the key points rapidly.

Very usefully - and far more useful than templates - he provides some very simple methods to drill down on specifics. For example, he provides simple methods, with examples, that help you identify sources of power, how to accurately identify a company strategy's when even they don't know (the Crown Cork & Seal case study is very useful here), how to apply Porter's Five Forces model to critically assess a market, even if it is very new to you, and even how to win over hard-nosed cynics on the value of strategy.

I like also that he doesn't pull his punches. The tone is usually respectful and academic, but down to earth. However, he cannot resist a few swipes at poor strategy and, indeed, even individuals he has met and had disagreement with in the past. There is an almost "Office Space" like decrying of template strategy that is only a hair's breadth away from Ron Livingstone's railing against "listening to eight different bosses droning on about mission statements". But I can allow him this indulgence because it is always in the context of describing bad strategy.

He's also unafraid to tell it like it is: recounting his discussion with Steve Jobs shortly after his return to Apple, he reveals not the detail of the strategy that Jobs was later to devise, but the simplicity and confidence of Jobs' approach to strategy as being as much "waiting for the next big thing" as anything else. Some might think Jobs flippant, but Rumelt proceeds to articulate why waiting for the right time or confluence of events (riding the waves of change, as he puts it) can be so important to latching not just onto any strategy, but the right strategy.

He is also fairly expansive in collating and presenting other useful perspectives, such as the school of critical thinking, which whilst not strictly strategy, is nonetheless an essential tool.

On the downside, whilst the conversational nature of this book is likeable, it can be frustrating if you want to get to "the bit that deals with x, y or z". And there are no "templates" or tools to use: he is quite clear that this is often the route to bad strategy, substituting for clear analysis and critical thinking (indeed, I was left agreeing with him that templates are a blocker, not an aide). But I don't think that's how this book is meant to be used.

This is simultaneously a book for the beginner, as well as a book for the experienced practitioner. Whilst it does a consummate job of explaining the fundamentals is a compelling way, it also would be beneficial to those people who know how to do this, but maybe would benefit from a fresh perspective. I certainly found it refreshing to go back through some of my strategy work and see it anew, with perhaps more critical and a clearer understanding of its flaws.

I personally found this book far more valuable read cover-to-cover than as a book to dip into. As such, you might want to try this as an audiobook: I found this a very effective way to consume it, being very much like listening into a really good business radio programme on Radio 4 (or NPR, for our American cousins).
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Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters
Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters by Richard Rumelt (Paperback - 14 Jun 2012)
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