Tuesday, 3 March 2015

What's A Strategy?

 Link to article
Recently, I was asked this simple question: What is a strategy?

According to this article a business strategy is: the result of choices executives make, on where to play and how to win, to maximize long-term value

Which seems reasonable enough definition, for the CEO, but doesn't really help those who need to think strategically about other initiatives,  like, for example,  business change programmes. 

Here's some thoughts on what a strategy is, and what it isn't:

A strategy:
- Tells a story
- Is future focused
- Can apply to short, medium on long term futures
- Provides focus on what is important (and what isn't)
- Is actionable
- Is a framework for decision-making
- Is holistic - considers changing environment & external events
- Examines alternatives
- Assesses risks
- Takes step back from Business As Usual - it is an abstraction from the current operation
- Can be emergent and living: will undergo revisions and course-corrections.
- Is a reference point for dealing with emergent change
- Is 'WHY', 'WHAT', 'WHEN' and 'HOW' focused. The 'HOW' in a strategy is a 'Meta-HOW':  often speaking to unknowns and unplanned (unknowable) events. The 'WHEN' is often more sequence focused than time-definite
- Is a choice

What a strategy isn't:
- A detailed plan of activities
- A grand design
- A set of desired aims/objectives ( although these might be the basis)
- A mission statement
- A budget plan
- A collection of pre-determined projects
- A list of possibilities (technology-based or otherwise)
- Only applicable to 'big' or 'long-term' change (things often labelled as 'strategic').

I recommend reading Roger Martin's wise words on the subject of Stategy.  A few quotes from his post:

"The problem with a lot of strategies is that they are full of non-choices. Probably most of us have read more than a few so-called strategies that say something like, "Our strategy is to be customer centric." But is that really a choice?"

"I would argue that 90 percent of the strategic plans I've seen in my life are really more accurately described as budgets with prose".

"If you're into destroying innovation, two words—"prove" and "it"—will do the trick".

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