The Strategic Viewer’s Guide to the President’s Jobs Speech

Posted 09.06.2011

Potus-tv There’s lots of speculation about what President Obama will say in his jobs creation strategy speech to Congress on Thursday night.  Will he be bold?  Will he be meek?  Will he seek compromise? Will he draw a line in the sand?

Perhaps the most important question is will he offer a viable strategy for creating jobs and reducing the unemployment rate? Lately, I’ve been reading a book that will help you and me answer that last question.  It’s called Good Strategy Bad Strategy  by UCLA business professor Richard Rumelt. Back in December 2008, Rumelt wrote in the McKinsey Quarterly  that the great recession was not the typical downturn, but a structural break that would require difficult fundamental changes to get the economy back on track. Almost three years later, it looks like he called it.

Since one of the basic jobs of leadership is to define a strategy that can lead to success, Thursday’s speech provides an opportunity for an evaluative case study.  In Good Strategy Bad Strategy, Rumelt says that there are three key elements that represent the kernel of any good strategy. Conversely, there are three signs of a bad strategy. 

So, building on what Rumelt offers, here’s your viewer’s guide to whether the President is offering a good jobs strategy or a bad jobs strategy on Thursday night. (The guide just might help you in your next strategy conversation as well.)

Rumelt says that the kernel of a good strategy contains three things:

  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.”

If the president’s speech contains those three elements, he’s on his way to a good strategy.

On the other hand, if it contains one or more of these signs from Rumelt, it’s a bad strategy:

  • Avoiding “the pain or difficulty of choice.”
  • “Template-style strategy – filling in the blanks with vision, mission, values and strategies.”
  • “New Thought – the belief that all you need to succeed is a positive mental attitude.”

Good strategy is rare, Rumelt writes, because it’s a lot harder to develop than bad strategy. Let’s take the President out of the conversation for a moment and talk about your situation.  Do you agree or disagree with Rumelt’s markers of good strategy and bad strategy? What would you add to either the good list or the bad list? What’s the most important thing you can do as a leader to make sure you’re promoting good strategy and not bad strategy?