More years ago than I care to say, as a vice president with Creative Strategies International, I gave up trying to define strategy. During the years I was in that business, I discovered, slowly, that most people believe they are naturally good at strategy. They may not be able to define it, draw it in business diagrams, but they understand it. I think I’ve seen that most of strategy development is intuitive.
- People generally understand that strategy involves focusing on priorities, and why that’s good for a business.
- People generally understand that strategy involves playing towards strengths, and away from weaknesses.
So, whether or not you can define strategy, you know it when you see it. That’s what I’ve seen through the years.
The real problems with strategy
In one of my long-term consulting relationships, a large and very successful company would send groups of managers to 2- and 3-day offsite meetings to develop strategy. I watched in wonder as groups of very bright young managers developed brilliant strategies at these meetings, but failed, year after year, to implement them. The ideas that energized the offsite meetings were lost back in the office, drowned in the daily routine, putting out fires, answering the telephone, solving the every day problems.
I learned the hard way that the problem with strategy isn’t as much developing good strategy as it is in implementing strategy. Not that we should underestimate the importance of strategy, but we should at least be cynical about how much of business strategy remains in the realm of ideas only, and doesn’t really change a business.