Bad strategy and good strategy

Richard Rumelt1 on bad strategy:

By the early 2000s, the juxtaposition of vision-led leadership and strategy work had produced a template-style system of strategic planning. (Type “vision mission strategy” into a search engine and you’ll find thousands of examples of this kind of template for sale and in use.) The template looks like this:

The Vision. Fill in your vision of what the school/business/nation will be like in the future. Currently popular visions are to be the best or the leading or the best known.

The Mission. Fill in a high-sounding, politically correct statement of the purpose of the school/business/nation. Innovation, human progress, and sustainable solutions are popular elements of a mission statement.

The Values. Fill in a statement that describes the company’s values. Make sure they are noncontroversial. Key words include “integrity,” “respect,” and “excellence.”

The Strategies. Fill in some aspirations/goals but call them strategies. For example, “to invest in a portfolio of performance businesses that create value for our shareholders and growth for our customers.”

He says a good strategy has three parts:

1. A diagnosis: an explanation of the nature of the challenge. A good diagnosis simplifies the often overwhelming complexity of reality by identifying certain aspects of the situation as being the critical ones.

2. A guiding policy: an overall approach chosen to cope with or overcome the obstacles identified in the diagnosis.

3. Coherent actions: steps that are coordinated with one another to support the accomplishment of the guiding policy.

If you’re at the mercy of bad strategy, I recommend this shortish article in McKinsey Quarterly or Rumelt’s book Good Strategy/Bad Strategy.


  1. Rumelt is a “guru” according to The Economist. 
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