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Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

The full title of this book by Richard Rumelt is

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters“.

In my review posted at Amazon.co.uk, I gave the book a rating of Four Stars. This means I think it is Good and Well Worth Reading.

Here is my book review.

It’s time to get serious about strategic planning

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 what’s known as a late adapter in technology markets and some of the stories passed over my head.

I 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 although the fluent 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.

It is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

There are many thousand of business books, you can see the full list of my reviews at Business Books Reviews by Paul Simister (Please click). I've also narrowed these down to a list of the 12 Best Business Books For Business Owners & Entrepreneurs (Please click).

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