Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Rumelt on strategy (VI): A real strategy is made more by induction than deduction

And the little grasshoppers thought I was done with Rumelt! This post is actually the final entry about his book. As I said earlier, I liked the first half of Richard Rumelt’s book on strategy more than the second half. I especially was struck by what I think is his most important chapter, "Bad Strategy," ...

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

And the little grasshoppers thought I was done with Rumelt! This post is actually the final entry about his book.

As I said earlier, I liked the first half of Richard Rumelt's book on strategy more than the second half. I especially was struck by what I think is his most important chapter, "Bad Strategy," from which I've quoted extensively.

That said, I did like his chapter 16, which emphasizes that a strategic plan is essentially a hypothesis. "A good strategy is, in the end, a hypothesis about what will work. Not a wild theory, but an educated judgment." As such, Rumelt continues, it must operate along the fringes of the unknown. "To generate strategy, one must put aside the comfort and security of pure deduction and launch into the murkier waters of induction, analogy, judgment, and insight."

And the little grasshoppers thought I was done with Rumelt! This post is actually the final entry about his book.

As I said earlier, I liked the first half of Richard Rumelt’s book on strategy more than the second half. I especially was struck by what I think is his most important chapter, "Bad Strategy," from which I’ve quoted extensively.

That said, I did like his chapter 16, which emphasizes that a strategic plan is essentially a hypothesis. "A good strategy is, in the end, a hypothesis about what will work. Not a wild theory, but an educated judgment." As such, Rumelt continues, it must operate along the fringes of the unknown. "To generate strategy, one must put aside the comfort and security of pure deduction and launch into the murkier waters of induction, analogy, judgment, and insight."

This makes me think that a good strategy should probably make everybody a little uncomfortable, especially its creator, because he or she will understand its weaknesses and the risks it runs.

Next up: Colin Gray’s book of maxims on strategy. (I’m reading all the books I put aside while I was reading books I had to read so I could write my own book.)

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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