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BW Businessworld

So, What’s Your Gameplan?

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There are numerous books on business strategy, but there is rarely a consensus on what constitutes a good one. Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt — which was featured in the best business books of 2011 as per Strategy+Business and has endorsements from the McKinsey Quarterly in addition to a host of others — lives up to the reputation. The book has three parts: good and bad strategy, sources of power and thinking like a strategist. In the first part, Rumelt picks examples from the familiar and famous such as Apple, Starbucks and IBM, besides drawing refreshing tales even from a grocery store on his campus and the combat strategies of the US during the World War II.
Rumelt is brutally honest in his approach. He takes on a stereotypical approach of vision-mission strategies where there is little emphasis on action. While illustrating bad strategy, he mentions examples of certain US universities and the Central Intelligence Agency, whom he think has poor strategic objectives. The author also brings his prior experience of working with National Aeronautics and Space Administration to illustrate how the finest organisations have dealt with ambiguous situations.

The second part could be the best section. Rumelt gives examples of great strategy such as Shell's handling of the oil crisis and business cases from his academic experiences. In the final part, he tries to show us how to develop the ability to think strategically. And his examples and articulation are memorable.

This unsparing focus on good strategy and his evident frustration with bad strategy with an occasional sprinkling of his dry humour has led to his popularity as a strategy consultant and this excellent book.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 23-01-2012)