March 23, 2020 · strategy basics

What is Strategy

There are a lot of different usage of s-word everywhere. All the material out there shows confusion on the definition. It is used interchangeably with tactics, stratagem, plan, and whatnot. But what is it?

I must warn you: This is a thought exercise on defining the art that is strategy. Since it is a thought exercise, it does not try to provide any answers.

Strategy Definition

The earliest definition of strategy comes directly from the military – it is the art of the general. It is connected to winning and focuses on three aspects: the goals, the actions and the resources.

The great John Boyd defines strategy as;

A mental tapestry of changing intentions for harmonizing and focusing our efforts as a basis for realizing some aim or purpose in an unfolding and often unforeseen world of many bewildering events and many contending interests.

Well, that’s a handful. Mark Pollard, on the other hand, provides a simpler definition:

Strategy is an informed opinion about how to win.

I think both of these definitions include important components to understanding and defining strategy. Let’s take a look at them.

Elements of Strategy

End Game

Strategy is about reaching the desired point – achieving a number of goals. Goals that would help towards achieving your Mission. Understanding the “winning conditions” is of paramount importance. Otherwise, strategy can’t help you. In the grand strategy level, this is the world you aspire to create. But in lower levels, the strategies should have well defined, SMART goals.

Situation

This is now – where and when we are. We have to analyze our current situation to understand the differences between it and our aspired world. This component is where we try to apperceive the unfolding and unforeseen world.

Means

Means are the pool that we can draw from to achieve our endgame – resources, capability, knowledge, etc. Our plays will be limited by this. The means are always limited and that is why we need strategy. To be able to reach our endgame with the available resources.

Plan

The plan is an essential part of the strategy as it details the activities that utilize the means to realize the objectives. The plan is about logistics and arrangement. This is also where the strategy will transform into the tactics.

Monitor

Neglected most of the time, monitoring is there to assess our progress versus the goalposts, to see if we are on track for our endgame or if we need course correction.

With keeping these elements in sight, let’s proceed to understand the aspects of the strategy.

Strategy as Discernment

Strategy bridges between the current situation and the endgame but also means and the plan. It is a link between where we start and where we want to end up. It is the road that takes us to our destination. It also is a connector and an interpreter between the means and the plan. It converts the knowledge into the practice, like an engine, it takes the potential and turns it to kinetic.

Strategy as a Process

Strategy is also a process that utilizes the elements we listed above to help us overcome an obstacle.

When we utilize strategy as a process, it helps us to:

Strategy as an Artefact

When a strategy as a process performed, it creates a strategy as an artefact – a document outlines and details the process which can be referenced during the implementation. It serves the very important job of harmonizing and focusing the effort of the organization by alignment.

Understanding these aspects would improve your strategy game. All these aspects have their strengths but also shortcomings.

I might return to this question in the future as this exercise helped me to understand some concepts better. And the aspects still need to be thought on to understand the strategy as a concept further.

Please let me know what is your definition of strategy on the comments.

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