Recent Developments: Our Take on Richard Rumelt’s “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy”

Sometimes we read books, articles or opinions that give us insight into the things we are doing right, the things we could be doing better and the ways we can expand our knowledge to develop better organizational strategies.

This summer, Richard Rumelt authored a book called “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters.” As you might expect the title alone caught our attention! Rumelt hit the mark on a couple common misconceptions of strategy, and we’d like to elaborate on those points with OnStrategy’s COO Erica Olsen’s perspective.

#1: There’s a growing tendency to equate fluff, buzzwords and financial goals as sufficient for “strategy” that needs to be debunked to really understand the power of a good strategy.

Olsen: There’s nothing fluffy about a good plan—a solid plan requires a good, hard look at your company, the way you do things and how successful you are at delivering to your customer/client/membership base. Only then can you get a clear, data-based understanding of your current strategic position. This can be effectively addressed by conducting a rigorous SWOT exercise, as this will help you diagnose your company just like a doctor might a patient. This is where the fluff will get flattened, and you can move forward to create a diagnosis that does more than explain the situation, but also defines the domain of action.

#2: Good strategies work by harnessing and applying power where it will have the greatest effect for facing big challenges. Most people think they might have a good strategy, but end up pursuing a “dog’s dinner” of conflicting policies and actions.

People do amazing things with common tools. It’s about knowing how to use what you have. Good leaders can take a strong, compelling vision and use it to engage people by creating a shared understanding of what is possible. Good strategy isn’t a magical stunt. It’s more about the 1-2-3s of connecting the dots in a 3-D landscape. The process is a multi-level thought exercise, yet Rumelt does not spend a lot of time on execution, which is where we have seen many strategies become stagnant. A good strategy that cannot be executed (i.e. not realistic, no accountability, not cascaded or aligned) is as bad as magical thinking.

Overall, this book is a good library addition for our fellow practitioners of strategy. It offers a picture of what good strategy looks like. In summary, remember no strategy is complete without the execution of coherent, coordinated actions to address your organization’s situation or challenges. Like guardrails on a highway, your plan offers a guiding approach. Happy strategizing on your organization’s journey!


Does your strategy look like a dream sequence or a dot-to-dot?




What is 8 + 11 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
All fields are required.

Free Guides & Resources

Setting OKRs that Work

A FREE downloadable guide and canvas to build Objectives and Key Results.

SWOT Assessment Guide

A FREE downloadable guide and canvas to complete a SWOT analysis, synthesize it into Competitive Advantages, and then use your SWOT to create SMART goals.

Guide to Create KPIs with 100 Example Metrics

A FREE downloadable guide to learn the basics of Key Performance Indicators with 100 example metric sources for ever department of your organization.

Free Guide for Writing Better SMART Goals

Download the FREE guide to learn how to create goals that have impact in your organization.

Free Guide to Build a Growth Strategy

A FREE downloadable guide and canvas to create a growth strategy that clearly defines where you play and how you’ll win.

Goals/OKR Cycle Guide

A FREE downloadable guide and canvas to establish a quarterly rhythm for OKRs and Goals.

OKR Essentials Cheat Sheet

Download the free cheat sheet to guide you through building and refreshing OKRs.

Join 50,000 Other Leaders Engaged in Transforming Their Organizations

Subscrbe to get the latest agile strategy best practices, free guides, case studies, and videos in your inbox every other week.

We Believe in Empowering Teams to do Amazing
Work, Consistently and Passionately

Success isn’t a list of flashy logos. It’s about helping anyone who wants to lead a great organization.
If that’s you, join our list of clients – you’re in good company:

Armen EZR Multnomah RHA SEO Monitor
Chobani Cisco Armen KIA Patagonia
Concordia College Davenport Fairbanks St. John's Washoe County School District
Boys and Girls Club BSA Cancer Society Maryland Food Bank Make A Wish
CMPD Long Beach San Francisco City of Sparks Washoe County