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Good Strategy, Bad Strategy

The Difference and Why It Matters

By Richard Rumelt
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
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Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

Good Strategy, Bad Strategy dissects good strategies by using historical examples from a variety of fields, and offers insight into developing our own effective strategies through practical advice and a solid blueprint.

This is a Blinkist staff pick

“My boss kept asking me, “Emily, what’s your strategy?” and I kept coming up empty (#truestory). This title is a smart start to wrapping your head around what it means to build an effective strategy and do good work to reach your goals.

– Emily, Community & Engagement Marketing at Blinkist

Key idea 1 of 10

Don’t confuse strategy with ambitious goal setting, visions or slogans.

So what is a strategy, exactly?

Consider this: the “2005 key strategy” of a major graphic arts company was a 20 percent revenue increase and a 20 percent profit margin. Does this sound like a good strategy to you?

The short answer: No. In fact, these are simply goals – far removed from a working strategy.

A vision or a goal is simply a stand-alone idea. A strategy, however, is a set of different ideas that includes a plan to achieve these goals.

Often a goal or a vision can be a perfectly fine starting point for a strategy. However, the strategy itself must include precise information on how these goals will actually be achieved.

For example, if your football coach advises your team to win the next game, he isn’t providing you with any useful information unless he tells you how to win. In other words, he must provide a plan of action – a strategy.

It’s not only our goals that are often mistaken for strategies; motivational slogans and buzzwords sometimes get passed off as strategies too.

This is usually made obvious by an absence of clear, simple words. In these cases, “fluff” – superficially restating the obvious while applying a heaping portion of buzzwords – takes on the appearance of high-level thinking.

The fundamental strategy of one major retail bank is a perfect example – in their own words, they offered “customer-centric intermediation.”

Let’s unpack this, shall we? “Intermediation” means simply that they take deposits and lend them to others, and “customer-centric” means that they focus on the customer.

By taking the fluff and unraveling it into simple, meaningful language for the layman, we quickly discover that their “fundamental strategy” for banking was simply “be a bank!”

What’s missing in both these business examples is a plan of action. Essentially, if you have no plan of action, then you don’t have strategy.

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