Strategy is a plan designed to achieve an overall aim.
The word ‘strategy’ comes from military planning: understanding the goal and creating a series of actions intended to accomplish that goal. If you are France and you want to control all of Europe it is a good idea to have a plan for how you are going to go about doing that. Anyone who had ever played Risk understands what strategy is, and what happens when you either don’t have a strategy or you don’t have a good strategy. It’s not pretty.
Today we use the word ‘strategy’ to modify anything we want to seem smart. In particular we hear a lot of people talking about “strategic marketing,” “strategic planning,” “strategic communications.” Everything has become “strategic.”
Let’s pause for a moment and think of the game of Risk again: I’m France and I want to control the entire Western Hemisphere. I have a starting point and I have a goal. When I role the dice on my turn I am not doing anything “strategic” at this point, I’m just moving my armies in the hope that somehow I will accomplish my goal. Strategy is not just knowing what my goal is, but critically looking at my situation and circumstance, and making a plan that based on this information gives me the best chance of achieving my goal.
It’s those last two pieces that are key to strategy and are the elements that most people leave out.
A plan is not the same thing as activity. A plan is not “tactics,” and that is critically important to understand. When you are on the battlefield in a game, in real life, os as a metaphor for the work you are doing, the battle you are fighting in that moment is not your plan, it is the activity you must get through in order to move your plan forward. An e-mail a week to target audiences in a marketing automation system is not a plan, it’s activity, tactics, and if it is done without an actual plan it is nothing but noise.
We spend a lot of time talking to clients about strategy, that is defining and building a plan for how to get there. You simply cannot have a strategy if you don’t have these two elements. Taking the time to build a plan is the bridge between having a goal and achieving a goal upon with your activities reside.
Strategy is 1) a plan, 2) designed, 3) to achieve an overall 4) aim. Taking the time to define each piece is an investment in success and is an opportunity to win the game.