Tag Archives: Good Strategy Bad Strategy

First, Clearly Diagnose (Define; Identify; Clarify) the Problem – Then, and Only Then, Design the Solution

First, read these excerpts and points from Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy/Bad Strategy:  The Difference and Why It Matters:

A leader’s most important responsibility is identifying the biggest challenges to forward progress and devising a coherent approach to overcoming them.

A good strategy does more than urge us forward toward a goal or vision. A good strategy honestly acknowledges the challenges being faced and provides an approach to overcoming them.

…the term “strategy” should mean a cohesive response to an important challenge. Unlike a stand-alone decision or a goal, a strategy is a coherent set of analyses, concepts, policies, arguments, and actions that respond to a high-stakes challenge.

…strategy focuses and coordinates efforts to achieve a powerful competitive punch or problem-solving effect.  Bad strategy tends to skip over pesky details such as problems.

• The four major hallmarks of bad strategy:  #2 — Failure to face the challenge.

• The centrality of the kernel.  The kernel of a strategy contains three elements:
• #1  A diagnosis that defines or explains the nature of the challenge.
• #2  A guiding policy for dealing with the challenge.
• #3  A set of coherent actions that are designed to carry out the guiding policy.

And this (from the “first Google response” to the search term:  “strategy define”):

Strategy:  A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.

And now, this:

The classic approach to persuasion is Monroe’s Motivated Sequence.  It has five elements, but it boils down to two:  Problem, Solution.  From the Wikipedia page:

Attention: Hey! Listen to me, you have a PROBLEM!
Satisfaction: But, I have a SOLUTION!


In the world of business, we have had kind of a run on the “solutions” end of things.  Many companies put “solutions” in their very name, and many others find a way to offer “solutions” in their promises to customers.

This is a very good thing to offer – solutions.  And until we have solutions, and implement them (back to the centrality of execution), we will not move forward.

But there is a very important – make that crucial — prior step.  Before there can be solutions, there needs to be a very clear, a crystal clear, and absolute accurate diagnosis of, and understanding of, the problem(s).

So, whatever else you do in your business life, spend a hefty chunk of time on this:  “what is the problem we’re dealing with right now?”  Until you know, with precision, the answer to that question, you should not even begin thinking about “what is the solution?”

If strategy leads to a plan of action, (“a set of coherent actions that are designed to carry out the guiding policy”), it really does matter to know just what the issue is that you are dealing with with your plan of action.

First:  what is your problem?
And then, and only then:  What is the solution? 

Follow The Leader: The #1 Task Of The Leader Is To Attract Followers!

Nearly everything I read has something to say about leadership.  In one way or another, authors tell us:  “this is what a leaders does; this is what a leader needs to do; this is what a leader should focus on.”

In the book I presented last Friday at our monthly event, the First Friday Book Synopsis, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt, we learned that “developing and implementing a strategy is the central task of a leader…

I don’t disagree with that, or most of the other things I read about leadership.  The fact is that leadership is an all-encompassing, incredibly important role.  Good leaders can create good and successful companies and organizations.  Bad leaders can lead to genuine problems, even the destruction or disintegration of a company or organization.  Many stories of each are everywhere available.

But I think there is one “this is the main task of leadership” consideration that trumps them all.  It is the task of a leader to attract followers.  Because, if there are no followers, there is no leader.  Leadership is not a “title,” it is a fact.  And followership may be the single biggest signal of successful leadership.

In the book, Tribal Leadership:  Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright focus on the “tribal” metaphor for companies and organizations.

It’s as though our tribe is part of our genetic code.  Birds flock, fish school, people “tribe.”   

In a tribe, leadership is truly critical.  And as they describe successful tribal leadership, they give this short, simple assertion:

Tribal Leaders are talent magnets, with people so eager to work for the leader that they will take a pay cut if necessary. 

People have a need for good leaders; people need to follow good leaders.  Tribal leaders attract followers — followers practically fight to get “under the leadership” of a good tribal leader.

The book proposes five stages of tribal leadership (from the book):







Innocent Wonderment

“Life is Great”



Tribal Pride

“We’re Great (and they’re not)”



Lone Warrior

“I’m Great (and you’re not)”



Apathetic Victim

“My life sucks”



Despairing Hostility

“Life sucks”

In this list, the goal for the tribal leader is to aim for stage 5, and help each tribe member move up the stages together.  Yes, to “move up together – to “follow the leader.”

The leader says, “this is where we are going – together.  Now, let’s go.”  Building followership to take that journey together is the test of, the proof of, genuine leadership.