Part of my job is dealing with strategy. Evaluating it, proposing it, and developing it. It’s the part of my job I like the most, and I think it’s something that is extremely important to any business.
What strikes me is how many folks I hear from who say things like “Strategy? We don’t have one”, “Nah, we didn’t worry about strategy, we worried about the customer,” or my favorite, “Our strategy is to make money.” I think these folks are misunderstanding something.
A strategy is often thought of as some incredibly well thought out and very complex plan, accounting for every contingency, and showing a step-by-step course of action. Like those big blueprints you saw in the old Wile E. Coyote cartoons, with a big dotted line tracing the path of the Acme rocket, or like a military strategy drawn on a map with arrows sweeping through the hinterland and little tanks and airplanes. We all want to believe that a strategy is a “master plan” type of thing. Unfortunately, that viewpoint is what makes people utter the nonsense I mentioned earlier.
A Strategy isn’t something you refer to or work with every day. It’s not a master plan with lots of detail for every step. It’s usually not a large blueprint drawing, although it might be if you’re in the roadrunner-catching business and Acme is a prominent supplier.
A Strategy is what guides and has guided the fundamental decisions and actions of the endeavor. Something does, and whatever it is it’s defining the strategy you’re using. The strategy you have may be incoherent, inconsistent, or impossible to articulate but it’s there. It may be invisible to you, but you can be sure those on the outside, like your competitors, can determine it by analyzing your past behavior. Chances are it’s simpler than you think. The question is whether it’s what you need it to be.