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Good Strategy Bad Strategy

My current reading list is mixed between coding, decision making, agile, and strategy. Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy Bad Strategy stands out as an interesting and entertaining read.

I liked how he outlined good strategy, and also how to identify bad strategy. This really helps in pushing through from a good enough attempt to a strategy that will make a difference.

Some quotes:

Good strategy almost always looks this simple and obvious and does not take a thick deck of PowerPoint slides to explain. It does not pop out of some “strategic management” tool, matrix, chart, triangle, or fill-in-the-blanks scheme. Instead, a talented leader identifies the one or two critical issues in the situation—the pivot points that can multiply the effectiveness of effort—and then focuses and concentrates action and resources on them.

Good strategy requires leaders who are willing and able to say no to a wide variety of actions and interests. Strategy is at least as much about what an organization does not do as it is about what it does.

On identifying bad strategy:

I have condensed my list of its key hallmarks to the four listed in the beginning of this chapter: fluff, the failure to face the challenge, mistaking goals for strategy, and bad strategic objectives.

On the structure of a good strategy:

The kernel of a strategy contains three elements: a diagnosis, a guiding policy, and coherent action. The guiding policy specifies the approach to dealing with the obstacles called out in the diagnosis. It is like a signpost, marking the direction forward but not defining the details of the trip. Coherent actions are feasible coordinated policies, resource commitments, and actions designed to carry out the guiding policy.

The problem of coming up with a good strategy has the same logical structure as the problem of coming up with a good scientific hypothesis. The key differences are that most scientific knowledge is broadly shared, whereas you are working with accumulated wisdom about your business and your industry that is unlike anyone else’s. A good strategy is, in the end, a hypothesis about what will work.

The book provides insight into the structure of a good strategy. However, it stops short of providing actionable techniques or analysis to help you get there. In this, it advocates strategy work being done by someone with a deep understanding of the business and competitive landscape.

This left me wanting more, and fortunately there are books out there that provide guidelines on this type of analysis. I see a few Michael Porter books in my future reading.