Book Review: Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

The book “Good Strategy Bad Strategy" by Richard Rumelt challenges conventional wisdom about business strategy. Founders, executives, and anyone involved in setting organizational strategy can benefit from Rumelt's clear framework for what makes a strategy effective.

The book is not a "how-to" manual for crafting strategy. You still have to analyze your specific situation and formulate a winning approach. However, Rumelt provides a solid conceptual framework as a starting point.


Rumelt argues that developing and implementing a coherent strategy is any leader’s primary responsibility.

But despite much talk about strategy, few organizations actually have one. Many so-called strategies are buzzwords, fluff, and unrealistic goals that are not grounded in understanding the underlying problem.

In contrast, a good strategy honestly acknowledges challenges, outlines an approach for overcoming them, and includes a set of coherent actions to carry out the approach.

My Thoughts

The section on identifying and leveraging our unique advantages—sources of power, as Rumelt calls it—was particularly enlightening.

As an entrepreneur who was diagnosed with ADHD in my late 40s, I had plenty of situations in life and business when I desperately tried to succeed despite my symptoms—like distractibility and impulsivity—only to end up with burnout and depression.

The book helped me realize that our most meaningful successes happen because of our unique circumstances, not despite them.

If you’re a fellow entrepreneur with ADHD, I hope you can also learn to see your creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, combined with your superhuman ability to focus on a single problem for days, weeks, and even months, as rare assets in the business world. Build your strategy around that!

Key Takeaways

  1. Don't mistake goals, ambition, or fluff for strategy. A good strategy has three key elements:
    • A diagnosis of the challenge.
    • Guiding principles or approach for dealing with the challenge.
    • A set of coherent actions to carry out the approach.
  2. Identify and leverage your advantages. Strategy is about generating and applying power to the right places. Analyze your unique advantages—what abilities allow you to do things others cannot?
  3. Focus and be willing to make tough choices. Strategy is as much about what you choose not to do as what you do. Don't let inertia or desire for consensus pull you in too many directions. Don't waste resources on non-essential efforts, even if they seem appealing. Good strategy requires sharp focus!
  4. Think dynamically. Consider how your actions will provoke reactions from competitors and how the environment will change. The best strategies anticipate and adapt.