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Book Review: Good Strategy/ Bad Strategy

The difference and why it matters

By R. Rumelt


Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters is not just another strategy manual, full of blue-sky thinking but short on practical ideas. This book has remained on bestseller lists since it was published in June 2011 thanks to the range of real life examples and logical arguments it provides.

The big highlighted case study is entitled ‘How Steve Jobs saved Apple’. While this is a compelling read in itself, there are a variety of other examples from world history on hand; ranging from David and Goliath, to Roosevelt in WWII, and the modern commercial phenomenon which transformed pomegranate juice into a valuable product.

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy was chosen as one of six finalists for the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award for 2011. It has won praise in the business world and scholarly circles for the personal approach Richard Rumelt takes, drawing on his forty years of practical experience with both commercial leaders and key academic strategists. The book is easy to read and full of personal opinions, clearly laid out in a series of arguments.

One aspect that makes the book stand out is the focus on bad strategy – what makes it, and how you can recognize the ‘fluff’. It demonstrates where amorphous strategies are ineffective, and why goals do not constitute a plan. Strategy does not mean that you can avoid all problems - there are always challenges to be faced, but Rumelt emphasizes that it is how you deal with them that will define your leadership. ‘A talented leader identifies the one or two critical issues in the situation... and then focuses and concentrates action and resources on them’.

The book is a wealth of information, and can be read in one go, or broken up into insightful chunks using the helpful chapter layout. It forces you to think, and challenges conventional strategic wisdom with refreshing insight.