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Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  4,803 ratings  ·  367 reviews
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 disp ...more
ebook, 241 pages
Published May 14th 2014 by Not Avail (first published January 1st 2011)
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4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,803 ratings  ·  367 reviews

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Andrew Garvin
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rumelt is surly and arrogant. The barbs he slings at 'bad' strategists are hilarious. 'It is embarrassing for an intelligent adult to be associated with this sort of bloviating' is one of many (this one being targeted at Cornell's benign mission statement). Chad Logan, a random prospective small business client of Rumelt's, must be icing down from the sick burns. Rumelt puts Chad Logan on blast - unwittingly providing comic relief, because what did this dude do to inspire so much ire?

Good Strate
Daniel Clausen
This review first appeared on "Defense Innovator" (

Lately, there seems no end to the number of books, articles, and op-ed pieces calling for a new grand strategy for the United States. These articles alternatively argue that the US needs to embrace complexity, focus on the homefront, rebalance to face rising peer competitors, brace for multiple challenges, to focus on a handful of known challenges, or to focus on domestic issues before starting on new for
Cindy Brandt
Felt the book could've been summed up in one chapter.
Nate Huston
Fairly standard corporate strategy fare. Well put together, though, and pithy. A good primer for strategy. His central thesis is that good strategy has good structure, a "kernel" consisting of a diagnosis, a guiding policy, and a coherent action." (77) Has some good thoughts regarding why bad strategy is so pervasive (normally a result of an unwillingness to make hard choices, templating, or a belief in the power of positive attitude as sufficient for good strategy. (58). About half the book dis ...more
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every once in a while a book comes along that changes how you perform one aspect of your life. This is one of those books; a book that will force you to change the way you approach business strategy. Good Strategy Bad Strategy flips strategy on its head, cuts out the fluff and digs beneath the success of companies across the ages and teaches us to replicate it by following the kernel (basic skeleton) of strategy.

Incredible book and a must read.
Chad Warner
Dec 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: strategists, business owners, executives
Recommended to Chad by: Paul Boag
Shelves: business, non-fiction
An insightful but long-winded exploration of effective strategy. The examples and advice are mostly related to business (usually large corporations), but they also deal with nonprofits and government. I like how it shows that much of what passes for strategy (goal-setting, vision) actually isn’t, and walks through how to form good strategy.

Its points could have been condensed into a book one-third the length. Part 3 (Thinking Like a Strategist) seemed disconnected from the rest. I suggest skippi
Alper Çuğun
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe this is advanced as far as strategy books go but it struck me as a really good introduction to strategy somewhat halfway to decisions theory.

The cases are pretty good. California Sunday just did a profile on the nut farmer just as I was reading this. The NVIDIA case is oddly prescient given the current crypto boom. And kicking down at the financial crisis is nothing but good measure.

A lot of damage and confusion could be prevented if everybody was forced to read this book before they ever
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One fundamental idea presented in an understandable manner.
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is such a great book, but I debated rating it 4 stars because I felt some of the examples dragged on a little, becoming slightly monotonous.

I really liked how the author details mistakes companies make when setting their strategies, such as confusing ‘fluffy’ vision statements with strategy, or actually implementing bad strategies.

The author is considered an international expert in strategy. Throughout the book, he includes examples extracted from his experience consulting with various com
Andrew Stotz
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters
I loved this book. I loved it so much that I did a video ( about it.
But if you don't feel like watching the video, what I said about it is below.

What is Good Strategy?
Sources: ASIR, Good Strategy Bad Strategy. The Difference and Why it Matters, Richard P. Rumelt, 2013, Profile Books

Rumelt says…

What was so great about this book?
Small book, can read over a few hours
Clear and simple
Real world

This boo
Tõnu Vahtra
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best book I have read on the topic of strategy this year, it made me think in a different way about strategy and came timely just before the planning cycle for the upcoming year. Strategy is not just about goals or getting things done but it should be very much concerned with establishing or strengthening a competitive advantage. Also strategy is not just goals or guiding policies, strategy is about action, about doing something. The book helps you to differentiate bad strategy (or w ...more
Michael "Doc" Norton
This book seems a lot longer than necessary. It is full of examples where the author looks back on events and determines that he was right at the very beginning and that his strategy was (or would have been) best for the client. Meh. Other stories presume a certain strategy existed because success was achieved by some measure. Again - meh.

Overall, I felt like I got some good nuggets from the book. Ways to think about problems, what else to consider, etc.
Nov 12, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: priority
There is some good information here about how and why to structure a strategy, coupled together with what makes a bad strategy and how to find/avoid them. Sadly though the author had an overstated opinion of his skills and comes off super arrogant much of the time. This ended up being super distracting for me when combined with the fact that there is tons of fluff in the book (ironically one of the things he criticizes).

I really want to recommend this to quite a few people but I struggle to know
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Richard Rumelt may come across as an arrogant sob, but he's a very smart one. I had a lot to learn from this book, out of which I think the most important thing that stuck was to eliminate the fluff. I liked the cases he presented to get his points across, though I think that for some he got a bit too into it and made them very difficult to keep up - I had to stop and google people and events.
Nevertheless, it's a good book for everyone dealing with planning and strategy in their job and, dare I
Chanh Nguyen
Good strategy isn't just what you are trying to do; it's also why and how you are doing it.

Good strategy
• Diagnosis: understanding the challenge
• A guiding policy: the reasons that you’ll take action to address the challenge
• A set of coherent actions: a concrete, consistent action plan

Bad strategy
• Fluff: empty slogans and buzzwords
• Failure to face the challenge: focusing on things that are not the root problem
• Mistaking goals for strategy: a wish-list of objectives without a plan of action
Michael Dubakov
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
Quite good book. In a nutshell, Richard summarizes good strategy in 3 steps:

1. Analyze context (deeply) and make diagnosis
2. Create guiding policy to frame your actions
3. Create set of coherent actions that align with guiding policy

Surprisingly, many companies do not use these three basic steps.

Richard shows what bad strategy means. This is important to distinguish good from bad. People like to set ambitious goals without any deep analysis, and try to enforce this goal using "motivation". This
Hj Barraza
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: strategy
Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to sit down for an extended session with a top business thinker while he discusses the fine points of corporate strategy with you? You can, at least in an editorial sense, when you read Richard Rumelt’s work on business strategy. The prestigious McKinsey Quarterly calls Rumelt “strategy’s strategist,” and The Economist includes him on its list of the 25 most influential people in business management today. Who does he think he is, a rocket scientist? Well, yes, he also ...more
Apr 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is probably the most the most enlightening book I've read in the last 5 years. The author cuts the fat while explaining the strategy making process, making it more accessible to the average reader using a plethora of case studies. From the author's forty years experience as a research, teacher at UCLA and as a consultant, he brings on nuggets of wisdom on ways to formulating good strategies and staying away from bad ones. For fully internalizing the main takeaways, I probably will have to r ...more
Xavier Shay
Jan 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best "business" books I've read. The style is straight forward, there is a wealth of positive and negative examples (the author has an incredible amount of experience to draw from), and plenty of insight which I'm fairly certain will permanently change how I think about strategy.
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful book with clear writing and brilliant examples. The writer identifies all the hogwash that is passed on as strategy and then shows what a good strategy looks like.
Jordan Munn
Apr 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as schticky as a lot of corporate/consulting books, this book is clearly written and gets strong points across.
Javier Recuenco
Mar 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wang Jiao
Oct 09, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It is very empty, lack of concrete content, just examples piled up with abstract words. Too dull to continue after two chapters. Not fruitful at all.
Tomek Helbin
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best business books I have read! The examples of bad strategies were eye-opening, and sadly all too common in the corporate world, or the public service.
George Moody
This is, overall, an excellent book on strategy. Its two main contributions are a clear and rigorous approach to good strategy, which almost everyone can gain from, and a vigorous analysis of errors in strategic thinking that gets right to the heart of why there is so much bad strategy out there.

The first section is the strongest, setting out Rumelt’s approach to strategy and the concept of, and prevalence of, bad strategy. The remaining two sections, whilst interesting and containing us
Michael Culbertson
Five stars for Part I; two stars for Part II—but Part I is worth it on its own. Highly recommended for all organizations.

According to Rumelt, much of what is called organizational "strategy" is not truly a strategy: A set of goals, objectives, or targets is not a strategy. A list of activities is not a strategy. A project plan is not a strategy. A budget is not a strategy. Inspirational talk is not a strategy.

The "kernel" of Rumelt's understanding of strategy consists of three parts: (1) an asse
Jacek Bartczak
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book destroyed my opinion that only entrepreneurs can write valuable books about business. One of the most insightful business book I've ever read: full of real case studies, examples and simple metaphors.

Richard Rumelt provides many tips on how to "step back and look at the bigger picture" about how the company works - does our strategy address the most relevant problems? Did we specify a state which we want to achieve? Are our plans concrete enough? And many other things which help a bett
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read if you truly want to understand what is strategy and what isn’t.

A great read and extremely insightful.

The author demonstrated deep knowledge across domains and industries. Using examples from history, military, commerce, and finance, he very clearly communicated his core framework of a strategy: a deep diagnosis of the situation, a guiding policy or approach that is based on the unique strengths of the organization, and a set of coherent actions that aligns with the policy.

As a pr
Brook Dixon
Probably should have been called Memoirs, Musings and Mysteries of a Genius Strategist, being a book which aims to secure Rumelt’s legacy, rather than convey deep practical and theoretical knowledge about strategy.

No doubt Rumelt is an expert in this field, but selective hindsight makes all strategy appear genius. The credibility of the book suffers accordingly.

Some excellent insights early in the book, before it degenerates into storytelling and myth making. The very last section, dealing wit
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Too many leaders fool themselves and/or others into thinking that a grand vision or BHAG is good strategy.

Rumelt destroys those simple-minded misconceptions in this important book.

Through loads of detailed examples and thoughtful insight, he identifies a useful path forward for entrepreneurs and business leaders working to build a remarkable enterprise.
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Rumelt’s research has centered on corporate diversification strategy and the sources of sustainable advantage to individual business strategies. His current research interests center on the dynamics of industry transitions with a focus on the patterns and forces shaping the evolution of complex industries.

Rumelt received his doctorate from the Harvard Business School in 1972. He joined the UCLA fa
“The kernel of a strategy contains three elements: a diagnosis, a guiding policy, and coherent action.” 6 likes
“It is hard to show your skill as a sailor when there is no wind.” 5 likes
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