Good Strategy / Bad Strategy 📗
Summary and review of the most influential work by Richard Rumelt.
Hey there, as some of you already know, we started a Book Club 📗 in the Refactoring community!
Every two months we read some famous book in the engineering/management space, and we review it together in a live event at the end of the period.
This works on many levels: the cadence forces all of us to read more books, the conversation improves our understanding, and the whole ceremony creates bonding in the community.
We started by reading Good Strategy / Bad Strategy, by Richard Rumelt, as it won the popular vote!
This article is dedicated to it, and should work on two levels:
📋 Summary — explain the main themes, frameworks, and ideas included in the book. So if you are low on time, you can just read this instead of the whole thing!
🌟 Review — illustrate our take on such ideas, how they relate to our work, and what we liked and disliked.
The book club and the community are exclusive to paid subscribers. If you want to get access you can subscribe below 👇
⚖️ Good and Bad
At the very beginning of the book, Richard Rumelt says that strategy seems to be everywhere these days.
It was 2011 when he wrote this, and, I swear, it is even more true today. Every day we are bombarded with threads, Linkedin posts, presentations, and ebooks by people who seem to have strategies about pretty much anything.
But then, Rumelt argues, truly good strategy is rare. This is a core theme of the book, which, as the name implies, spends almost the same time talking about good strategy, as it does talking about bad strategy.
And that’s what caught my attention — as a fellow writer.
Whenever I read something, I can’t help but think about how I would have written about that topic, in terms of structure, tone of voice, and actual content. It’s like a process that runs all the time in the back of my mind.
So, what struck me is that this book is not called “How to create a good strategy” — or some catchy variation on that. It is called Good Strategy / Bad Strategy.
In fact, the book hits you with a one-two punch:
First, it hits you with inversion — it shows you what’s bad. Since bad strategy is incredibly common, chances are this is going to hit you hard: “been there, done that”.
Second, it shows you what good strategy looks like. And at this point your mind has been primed to hear what the author has to say.
This is so effective that we will follow the same pattern for this review. Here is what we will cover:
❌ Bad Strategy — what it looks like, and why it happens.
🔮 Good Strategy — what strategy is really about, and how to create it by following Rumelt’s three-step framework.
💪 Sources of Power — the key elements to consider from which you can draw good strategy.
⚔️ Competition — putting the book’s key lessons in context with digital products.
📣 How to be heard — how you can contribute to your company strategy and communicate effectively.
📌 Bottom line — final thoughts and takeaways.
Let’s dive in!