Hi @cedric , about a year ago we discussed “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy” briefly on Twitter. I may have slightly warmed you to the book, though I was unable to be as precise in my reasons as you needed.
You talk in this post about Rumelt’s one good idea, but that it’s still a bad book. A bad book because it doesn’t describe how to come up with a strategy.
I would quibble and say it’s four-ish good ideas and some useful cases, but that even one good idea can make a book worthwhile.
The good ideas that Rumelt unpacks, and which the cases help bring to life, are:
- “Strategy” is bad if it’s just financial targets, without insights on how to get there.
- “Strategy” is bad if it is platitudes or generalities.
- The best strategy is often surprising, not only because it’s rare, but because its surprising nature is what makes it most competitive. (The military angle on it.)
- Strategy is a coherent design.
Design is the key word there. Design being about taste and feeling developed over time and much exposure to the domain and its occupants. You do talk about developing strategies through experience, over time, and ultimately by feeling. I think that’s maybe the way it has to be, at least for the good strategies.
The book helped me improve my feel for things that are strategic and non-strategic, though I am only really confident about the shape of the very specialized game that I work in. (For closely related fields, I can make some passable judgements, but for fields outside of that, I can only really identify some bad strategies. Not come up with anything good myself.)
Despite exposure to quite a few strategy consultants, I’ve never encountered an external company that could do much more than make business school-level recommendations. I believe they exist, maybe mostly in the form of extremely experienced and expensive individuals. I suspect that Rumelt would be good at tackling various kinds of problems through consulting, though he hasn’t described an exact recipe for doing so. (His more recent book, The Crux, does get closer but it’s still not what you’d be looking for ideally.)
There are a couple of good frameworks recommended in this thread. I do like Theory of Constraints, and I’ve had various exposures to Wardley Maps though they never quite gelled with me. Also, I suppose I’m not alone in having done my own ad-hoc mapping and visualization to tease out certain aspects of strategy for a product. I read your summary of the 7 Powers, and they certainly seem comprehensive. I believe that each of these frameworks can help prime people towards strategic thinking, at least if combined with a lot of real-life or highly realistic cases to reflect on.
But it sounds like you’re looking for something that will reliably get people to a truly effective strategy. I think that such recipes are more likely to get you “operational hygiene” than to arrive at the kinds of breakthrough strategic designs that Rumelt talks about, and that seem to work best when a business is up against big challenges. In my opinion, there is no recipe for that.
And so because I have low expectations in that regard, I do think the book is useful in helping to recognize things that might or might not be strategic. At least as a lens with which to evaluate real-life cases.