Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard P. Rumelt
I've had this book a while but never got around to reading it properly. One of my colleagues at work was listening to the audio version of it and recommended it. This was an excellent read and very relevant to what is happening at the company I am working at at the moment. For me the key takeaway was that what most people call strategy is not actually strategy but vision or goals. Strategy is setting a direction and what needs to happen to achieve it. The observations about the approaches of Walmart and Cisco were particularly good.
My key highlights:
Good strategy works by focusing energy and resources on one, or a very few, pivotal objectives whose accomplishment will lead to a cascade of favorable outcomes.
The core content of a strategy is a diagnosis of the situation at hand, the creation or identification of a guiding policy for dealing with the critical difficulties, and a set of coherent actions.
A great deal of strategy work is trying to figure out what is going on. Not just deciding what to do, but the more fundamental problem of comprehending the situation.
Good strategy is not just “what” you are trying to do. It is also “why” and “how” you are doing it.
The most critical anticipations are about the behavior of others, especially rivals.
What one single feasible objective, when accomplished, would make the biggest difference?
When a product gives a buyer an advantage in competition with others, there will be an especially rapid uptake of the product.
In my own case, I rely on outside help—I invoke a virtual panel of experts that I carry around in my mind. This panel of experts is a collection of people whose judgments I value. I use an internal mental dialogue with them to both critique my own ideas and stimulate new ones.
To commit to a judgment is to choose an interpretation of which issues are critical and which are not and then to choose an implied action. By committing to a judgment—especially a diagnosis—you increase the probability that you will disagree with some of the assessments of others, and thereby increase the chance of learning something. The same principle applies to any meeting you attend. What issues do you expect to arise in the meeting? Who will take which position? Privately commit yourself in advance to some judgments about these issues, and you will have daily opportunities to learn, improve, and re-calibrate your judgment.