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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 10 September 2014
This is a very enjoyable, plain language book. It is scattered with interesting real world examples highlighting good strategy and bad strategy.
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on 24 August 2016
An excellent step by step guide about how to form coherent strategy and use it to guide your decision making within an organisation
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on 5 March 2017
Excellent thinking and easy read.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 31 July 2011
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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This is a thought-provoking book which challenges many of the practices that are passed off as strategy today. Richard Rumelt is particularly against wish driven strategies like “our strategy is to grow by 20% per year because we want to grow by 20%.”

According to Richard Rumelt, the kernel of good strategy has three elements:

1) A diagnosis of the issues and problems facing the business
2) A guiding policy to overcome the obstacles
3) Coherent action

It’s a simple, powerful idea because bad strategy is too often a general guiding policy, but unlike step 2, it has been picked at random because it sounds good or trendy rather than needed to address the big issues the business faces.

Similarly this strategy kernel emphasises that action plans are an inherent part of good strategy and not something to be added in later (perhaps). It sounds obvious when you read it here or in the Good Strategy Bad Strategy book but you still hear vague ideas like “our strategy is to expand overseas” or “our strategy is to build an online business”.

It is an interesting read for anyone familiar with strategic planning but it focuses on strategic thinking in general terms rather than specific. It’s not a book for someone who is new to strategy and wants to know how to put together a strategic plan. It assumes a lot of knowledge.

There are plenty of stories from history, from space exploration, from military history and from business although there’s more emphasis on new technology than I would have liked personally. I’m a late adapter and some of the stories passed over my head. I also thought that the book started really strongly with its emphasis on the difference between good and bad strategy but the value I got from the book tailed off as I read more but the writing style kept me reading through to the end.

I don’t recommend Good Strategy Bad Strategy to small business owners because they are unlikely to have the existing knowledge of the popular strategy concepts but it is an important read for strategy consultants and academics together with CEOs and strategic managers in bigger businesses.

The comparison between good strategy and bad strategy is a wake-up call to businesses to get serious about strategic thinking. The kernel provides a very useful, very short checklist which you can use to audit your own strategic planning.

(This review first appeared on my blog, Differentiate Your Business)

About my book reviews - I aim to be a tough reviewer because the main cost of a book is not the money to buy it but the time needed to read it and absorb the key messages. 4 stars means this is a good to very good book.
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on 14 June 2011
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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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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on 28 March 2017
I'd rate this as the best business book I have ever read, and I have read a lot. Very insightful and clear on what (as the title suggests) is good strategy and what is bad strategy - or indeed isn't really strategy at all. Made me realise the errors in so much of what 'strategy' I've previously been involved in and it's a book I keep coming back to for guidance. Simply brilliant.
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on 25 June 2011
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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on 29 January 2012
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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