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Publisher's Summary

Developing and implementing a strategy is the central task of a leader, whether the CEO at a Fortune 100 company, an entrepreneur, a church pastor, the head of a school, or a government official. Richard Rumelt argues that the heart of a good strategy is insight - into the true nature of the situation, into the hidden power in a situation, and into an appropriate response. He shows you how insight can be cultivated with a wide variety of tools for guiding your own thinking.

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy integrates fascinating examples from business, nonprofit, and military affairs to bring its original ideas to life: From Apple to General Motors, from the two Iraq wars to Afghanistan, from a small local market to Wal-Mart, from the Getty Trust to the Los Angeles Unified School District, from Global Crossing to the 2007-08 financial crisis, and many more. The abundance of business-ready insights offered by Rumelt stem from his decades of digging beyond the superficial to address hard questions with honesty and integrity.

©2012 Original material © 2011 by Richard Rumelt. Recorded by arrangement with Crown Business, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. (P)2012 (p) 2012 HighBridge Company

Critic Reviews

“Refreshing...clear...elegant.... If you want to make strategy, you will need...this book.” (Walter Kiechel, author of The Lords of Strategy)
“Brilliant...a milestone in both the theory and practice of strategy.” (John Stopford, Emeritus Professor, London Business School)
"Drawing on a wealth of examples, Rumelt identifies the critical features that distinguish powerful strategies from wimpy ones—and offers a cache of advice on how to build a strategy that is actually worthy of the name. If you're certain your company is already poised to out-perform its rivals and out-run the future, don't buy this book. If, on the other hand, you have a sliver of doubt, pick it up pronto!” (Gary Hamel, co-author of Competing for the Future)

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Average Customer Ratings

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Fantastic framework for strategy + how to fail

A book that sounds a bit 'dorky' like this one I normally leave alone for fear of empty words. But I am very happy to have picked this one up!

Rummelt is a very senior strategist to big and smaller firms, and have seen where they can go wrong: confusing objectives with strategy ("our strategy is to grow revenue"), strategy with excel sheets or (worst of all, and very hot right now) confusing leadership ("a will to succeed") with strategy.

Instead, he outlines a simple yet powerful method of building a strategy:
1. diagnose the situation and determine the key challenge for the organisation/firm
2. develop/create a guiding policy (Porter would say, competitive strategy) to overcome the challenge or reap the opportunity
3. develop and execute a coherent action plan.

He goes on the enrich each of these parts, which to a certain extent have been discussed elsewhere (Porter, Ansoff, Hamel, Kaplan) but not in such a concise and easy to follow way.

The strength of the book is not only in how strategies should be build and executed, but also how many companies go wrong: e.g. that your strategy needs commitment from the organization is ruthlessly attacked: if the entire organisation agrees with the strategy, there is no 'hard' choice involved. A strategy that pleases all in the end does not deliver. Though provoking and pragmatic at the same time.

What I personally found most pleasing is that Rummelt does not say that planning is better than execution, or leadership is superior or not, but that all are parts in a chain that need to fit together. You need strategy AND execution AND leaderhip AND creativity/innovation AND ...while simultaneously focusing your energy.

If you are in a leadership or management position in any organisation, private or public, I highly recommend this book for its framework, coherence and ease of understanding, combined with its focus on the essential elements and pitfalls.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Matthew
  • Nicholasville, KY, United States
  • 05-15-12

Strategy Defined, Finally

Runnette does the impossible in this book and makes a book on strategy interesting. It's amazing how stories and anecdotes can make all the difference. By highlighting some funny examples of bad strategy, good strategy becomes more and more obvious in contrast. Looking forward to future books from Runnette.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Clear Thinking on a Misunderstood Concept

Richard Rumelt, in Good Strategy Bad Strategy,makes strategic thinking readily available all. There is a lot of clear thinking here that will enlighten readers. For example, aspiration is not strategy. JFK proposed that we go to the moon in a decade. That was technically possible. Going to Mars is technical available to us as well. However, since Kennedy’s moon shot project people have been confusing aspiration with strategy. The implication is that if we just set goals they will be attained. Rumelt sets the reader straight. Rumelt goes beyond telling readers What they should do to telling the readers HOW to do it. Rumelt strays into military strategy at times and his examples can be a little long for my taste. However, this book is still a worthwhile read. After this book interested readers may want to pickup Joan Magretta’s (2011) Understanding Michael Porter and then tackle Michael Porter’s (1998) Competitive Strategy. A third volume, a favorite of mine, is Henry Mintzberg’s Strategy Safari which introduces the reader to all of the basic schools of strategic planning thought. He makes the argument that there is no such thing as strategy and cognitive scientists just might agree. The reading of Sean Runnette is very good. Enjoy.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Rob
  • LEXINGTON, SC, United States
  • 02-27-14

Good stuff but...

Any additional comments?

It took a couple of listens to really digest it. Not a lot of fluff. Careful though, if your organization is run by ineffective leaders, this book will open your eyes to the root causes. THAT makes working for them even harder. I'm in a better job than the one I had when I first picked this book up. Maybe there's a correlation (or maybe not).

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A Coherent and Actionable Description of Strategy

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

The author presents a very clear framework for understanding strategy and uses compelling examples to illustrate the elements of strategy.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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One of the most useful books ive read

I've listened to this about 3 times. Before I got this book I wasnt sure how to define 'strategy'
Now I feel confident that I could even discriminate between a good strategy, and a bad strategy. But the book is much more than that, just get it right now

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A hard headed look at strategy--sorely needed

This is a superb treatment of a topic that too many businesses, and way too many consultants and academics fill with fluff and buzz-words.

If you feel that "if you conceive it, and believe it, you'll achieve it" --- this book is probably your cup of tea. However, if you value actual performance over platitudes, and are willing to do the mental work to assure success, then invest in this book!

I liked the audio version so well I will be buying the paper version to use as a reference.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Andrej
  • Zagreb, Croatia
  • 12-21-13

5 stars out of 5 for strategy

Any additional comments?

Mr. Rumelt is an extremely smart person with a world of experience in strategic situations. He has an almost unique, scientific-like, ability to break down complex socio-economic issues into small and meaningful subsets which can be analyzed and acted upon without ever loosing the sight of the big picture. Mr. Rumelt gives hope that scientific approach, hypothesizing, and analytical work in general still have a say in the socio-economic context. A truly great book!<br/><br/>p.s. narrator is good too

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great book on strategy with real life examples

"Good Strategy / Bad Strategy" was the most interesting book on strategy I have read so far. Cuts through the leadership consult fluff speak that use template strategy that leads no where to actionable steps that drive visions to values to goals to strategy. The key according to the author is to start by determining what is going on and then building strategy around that reality based on where the company wants to go. The author's discussion on company's with hundreds of supposed strategies leading to stagnation via divide and conquer was very interesting. The author backs up his concepts with real life examples from the class room, corporate world and military campaigns.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Kernel = conceptually strong, immensely useful

The book is great. It is well-written, the sentences are by someone who cares about language, and the thinking is pulled from solid experience. I appreciated the examples of where people where to blind to listen to guidance.

The kernel is conceptually strong, and practical. Writing and developing strategy is hard-work, and having the three-part kernel is simple and useful distillation as I've come across.
Kernel plays well (absorbs? sits-above?) whatever tactics and frameworks to guide your planning.

Importantly, the idea of the kernel is intuitive for others to grasp. The kernel has three parts, a &amp;quot;diagnosis&amp;quot; that should simplify a complex reality and points to the pivotal problems that must be overcome. The &amp;quot;guiding policy&amp;quot; provides the guard rails and guidance on how to approach the problem, and finally &amp;quot;coherent actions&amp;quot; are chosen to solve the problem that is pointed to in the diagnosis.

Two things I wish the book provided:
(1) more/better diagrams, and
(2) examples of fully written out kernels.


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  • S. Roberts
  • 06-21-14

Ok, but long winded

Any additional comments?

A really practical approach to strategy, however, the examples throughout the book go on way too long without adding value. A 2 minute example to prove a point would be great, but some go on for maybe 10 minutes or more. I found that I kept 'drifting off' and forgetting the point that was being made.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Joshua
  • 10-08-16

Excellent points, very long.

Brilliant points, very long listen and sometimes found myself lost in case studies and the key points. Was my first audiobook so perhaps it was me....have since gone online and with the book, retained the key elements of good strategy and why bad strategy is so common. So well worth getting this book

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Ronald
  • 09-30-16

Top 3

In the top 3 books I've ever read (I read at least 1 a week & I'm no spring chicken) I've bought a print copy to scribble on. This book is truly stunning & essential for anyone trying to work out where they are going. A true epiphany.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • JON BEASLEY
  • 06-16-16

Fantastic!

Great book, fantastic case studies, well written, was hooked from the start. Very appropriate to anyone who appreciates technology

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Shayne
  • 03-23-16

Actually explains strategy and how to create it

Best strategy book I've ever read. No fluff. To the point and instructive. One of the few business books it's worth reading cover to cover.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Louise London
  • 07-09-14

Best strategy advice ever

Would you consider the audio edition of Good Strategy/Bad Strategy to be better than the print version?

I haven't read the print version

What was one of the most memorable moments of Good Strategy/Bad Strategy?

Explaining the difference between strategy and goal setting

Which character – as performed by Sean Runnette – was your favourite?

Sean is an excellent narrator and really drives through how crucial it is to understand the difference between good strategy and bad strategy.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Good strategy? Bad strategy? if you don't know the difference your business could be dead already.

Any additional comments?

The very word strategy has become associated with lots of talk and no action. This excellent book shows you that most strategy we see is just bad strategy and that good strategy is very straight forward, but requires extreme hard work and discipline to carry out.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • OxS
  • 08-26-17

an eyeopening experience to the beginner me!

A man with a wealth of experience in a huge variety of fields giving you an insight into how good and bad strategy affect businesses, nations and individuals. I certainly learnt a lot and will reconsider my thinking around my thinking! Go for it, hit the buy button, you're unlikely to regret it.

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  • James
  • 08-19-17

Practical and useful examples

It's interesting to hear about events you hear about from a different point of view and to make it stick as an example of strategy.

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  • graham parkinson
  • 07-26-17

Awesome

Must read made me think and was very well written and read ... suggest all lisyltwrn examples were good

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  • mic
  • 01-20-17

very insightful

loved this book well thought out loaded with an abundance of knowledge and insights.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-22-16

Crystal clear definition of Strategy

The first part of the book is wonderful at making a complex concept crystal clear. The stories, examples and frameworks outlined were really great. The book falls down slightly at the end with long winded, uninteresting case studies with little conclusions. With so much rich information, it will be a shame to not have a paper copy to review at a later date.