Many can’t define strategy yet use the word all the time – can you?

This week’s blog is the first in a series that discusses the second of the Effectiveness lab’s four organizational vitals (OV) – strategy.

Before delving deep into the strategy OV and its interconnectedness to the other OV’s, we have to ask the question: “what is a strategy?’

Strategy is a journey

The layman’s perspective:

When you get to work tomorrow, ask the person next to you and in a management or leadership role, what strategy is, and you will be surprised by the range of answers you will get. The diversity of answers is not the problem, in any case, diversity of thought is always a bonus in any discourse situation. It is how out of context the answers to ‘what is a strategy?’ are, that worries us at the Effectiveness lab.

It is our assumption that at work, managers and leaders utter the word strategy multiple times on a given day.  They also practice strategy at work – in some form, we have to assume. It is therefore surprising that many can’t define the word strategy well – or in a more practical manner, relate strategy to their work context.

Strategy is confused for all sorts of things – i.e. good leadership, having a vision, the resources needed to create value for the organization, witty thinking, etc.

Okay, let us have a go at defining strategy – and we provide below three perspectives:

1. Siri the iPhone (Apple) personal assistant:

Strategy is a high-level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty. In the sense of the ‘art of the general,’ which included several subsets of skills including ‘tactics,’ siegecraft, logistics, etc., the term came into use in the 6th century C.E. in East Roman Terminology. We suspect that Siri borrows this definition from Wikipedia

2. Harvard Business Review: 

Strategy is choosing a unique and valuable position rooted in systems of activities that are much more difficult to match. HBR [Micheal Porter] traces the economic basis of competitive advantage down to the level of the specific activities a company performs

3. The effectiveness lab:

Strategy is akin to the determination and manufacture of a particular vehicle model – a vehicle has many parts, some moving and others static. Yet, all the vehicle parts have been assembled in the context of a system to deliver a certain: amount of horsepower, comfort, and to meet the demand for a particular vehicle niche like: ‘4×4′ off road, town runner, or heavy goods carrier. Each part of a vehicle’s system has a role it plays for the particular vehicle to meet its niche-standard.

For example, to manufacture the 4×4 off-road vehicle, strategists have to:

  • determine the need for the particular vehicle type
  • determine what kind of vehicle should address the needs of that particular niche
  • plus define the current position/bearing and the process to design, assemble, and market the vehicle

Strategy is, therefore, a journey that has start and end coordinates. The mission from the outset to the end coordinate is a mix of strategy as defined above, a leader’s vision and tenacity, as well as individuals and the architecture that help to bring the strategy, to fruition. It is important to note that strategy is the journey itself, and that in the first place, it has to be defined as such.

Strategy is spatial – it occupies space between two boundaries i.e. the start and end points

The common thread in the above strategy definitions:

From the three definitions above, strategy can be any of: a plan, a unique and valuable position that others cannot match, or a journey that moves a company or individual from point A to B. The common thread in all the three definitions above is: ‘a unique milestone, that is some distance away from the current bearing, and that has to be reached via some kind of OD. locomotion.’

Strategy is a positioning game that involves defining current and future positions. A future position for which others lack the wherewithal to attain.

Strategy-gaming involves putting an OD. jig-saw in place. Applying all sorts of OD. skills and tools – leadership, design, and people – the jigsaw is manipulated to get to a desirable and unique end point. When firms get to their planned end point – they claim success. Success can be a much improved bottom line in the case of for-profits or positive impact for the not-for-profit agencies.

Why is strategy vital to the bionically balanced entity?

If strategy is about getting organizations from point A to B and along the way, retaining or achieving a state of organizational uniqueness [USP], then strategy should be considered the GPS system for the bionically balanced entity.

Strategy, from where we stand at the Effectiveness lab, is a fascinating art whose success depends on a number of intertwined factors:

  • A good understanding of the journey the organization wants to embark on
  • Sound knowledge of the rationale for choosing the particular journey coordinates
  • And deploying the right resources at the right time to walk the journey till the end coordinate

Future blogs in this series will delve into the workings of strategy at the bionically-balanced entity and how it intertwines with other OV’s

All we wish for on this particular blog is that you can define strategy

See you next week!

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Categories: Strategy

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5 replies

  1. The pic in this blog defines what strategy is; it is a journey to a desired business position. My definition; It is a set of agreed actions designed to achieve a desired business goal – usually through competitive leverage.

    And this reminds me of your first blog for the year 2017 about setting year resolutions. One can not achieve own resolutions without setting plans to achieve them. These plans are what we are calling strategies here!

    How about my definition?

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    • Seddu – thanks for reading the blog and a definition of strategy; the bit in your definition that talks strategy for me is: the ‘competitive leverage’ – couldn’t agree more and that is also what the HBR definition in the blog elucidates

      Yes – re.: the new year blog, which I am amazed you still recall! It’s a journey indeed

      Like

  2. Ha thanks Apollo for that insight into Strategy. Indeed you are right on the definitions stated herein.Hehe I will define next time but now this is at a high level organization.
    Taking you back to my people deep in Kasozi Mawembe who are living under perennial poverty. I too think they also need to understand Strategy – to be able to haul themselves out of that endemic ditch, that they should relay efforts towards their workable strategies at their level that should work miracles rather than surrendering.Or else we are doomed .
    Thank you

    Like

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  1. Strategy making – from theory to practice – Gabazira's blog

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