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Considering the source, this is a shocking book. For over 40 years Richard Rumelt has made distinguished contributions to the field of strategy, in his theorizing, teaching, and consulting. Now comes the deponent to tell us that what purports to be strategy at most organizations, not just companies but not-for-profits and governments as well, hardly merits the name. Instead it represents what he calls "bad strategy"--a list of blue-sky goals, perhaps, or a fluff-and-buzzword infected "vision" everybody is supposed to share.
Refreshing stuff this, seeing the corporate emperor revealed not in his imagined suit of armor but rather in something resembling a diaphanous clown suit. Rumelt drives the point home with a simple explanation for why most organizations can't do "good strategy": the real McCoy requires making choices, feeding a few promising beasties while goring the oxen of others at the management table.
But the jeremiad, fun as it is--and it is fun, Rumelt has a good time punching holes in the afflatus of bad strategy--isn't my favorite part of the book. That would be the second section, with the slightly daunting title "Sources of Power." To be useful to a practitioner, a book on strategy needs not only a straightforward framework but also a certain craftiness, a set of ideas that prompt the reader to think "What a neat idea" or "How clever of them." Rumelt has the clear, elegant framework in what he calls the "kernel"--a diagnosis explaining the nature of the challenge, a guiding policy for dealing with it, coherent actions for carrying out the policy.
In "Sources of Power," though, he goes deeper than the merely crafty to identify potential levers of for strategic advantage--proximate objectives, design, and focus, among others--that transcend the purely economic. Repeatedly he demonstrates how to think down through the apparent challenge, with questions and then questions of those questions, to get at what can be the bedrock of a good strategy.
In a final section on thinking like a strategist, we get a sense of what a delight it must be to sit in Rumelt's classroom, or with him on a consulting assignment, as he leads us through the best kind of Socratic dialogue to appreciate the kinds of blinders or mass psychology that can pose the final barriers to our forging clear-eyed strategy.
If you want to make strategy, or be an informed part of the ever-evolving conversation around the subject, you will need to read this book. My bet is that you'll enjoy the experience. --Walter Kiechel
As someone who writes strategy for the Air Force, this is the best textbook I've come across on how to actually write strategy.Published 8 days ago by Jack Jurgensen
One of the best books on strategy written to date. Hard truths, simple governing principals, inspiring case studies, structured and practical approach to setting a corporate... Read morePublished 9 days ago by Constantin Kinsky
Effective planning requires knowledge of what to focus on and where NOT to invest your energies. Good read. Good direction.Published 1 month ago by Rebecca
A highly recommend this book! It is the best and most useful guide I have read--by far!Published 1 month ago by Steven
This book is awesome. After reading it you will realize, if you don't already, why most businesses suck at what they do. For example. Banks are just banks. All there is to it. Read morePublished 1 month ago by TenBase
Outstanding book. Well written and a must read for any and all in business.Published 1 month ago by Steven Gunderson
This is simply one of the best books I had read on strategy. It's so well written and organized in layman terms with so many great stories/examples that all who care to read only... Read morePublished 2 months ago by ServantofGod
Bloated and self-indulgent. First half is a waste of time and the rest could be about 50% shorter.Published 2 months ago by diablanco
(this review refers to the audiobook version) Rumelt clarifies the purpose and process of strategy. His definition and condemnation of "fluff" is especially insightful.Published 2 months ago by Kevin W. Krosley