I recently had a discussion about strategy with a strategy consultant. I love strategy; I love talking about it, reading about it, and thinking about it. I don’t have many opportunities to discuss strategy directly with others. I therefore found the conversation very enjoyable.
I mean something very specific when I discuss strategy. Strategy is a deliberate path to a particular goal. It is something that is different for every person and organization based on their strengths, weaknesses, circumstances and proclivities; even if the end goals are similar. It is also something that can change along the way.
The easiest way I can describe it is to say it is getting to where you want to be from where you are at the moment. The where you are part changes with every action you take. The goal can even change or be abandoned altogether if you find it is no longer what you need somewhere along the way.
Strategy is about understanding where you want to go. Strategy is planning out how to overcome the obstacles you are aware of beforehand without being forced to change the underlying goals. A good strategist also leaves some wiggle room to deal with unforeseen obstacles. If you think strategy is about planning out all the details in advance and sticking to the plan no matter what happens then you are setting yourself up for failure.
Good strategists chuck aside the current plan when it is not working. They try something new. They tweak, they iterate. It is awareness of the weaknesses you have, the obstacles you face, and your needs of the moment in an unrelenting march toward your destination. If a road is blocked, you find another road. If you encounter a chasm, you build a bridge. And so on.
There is a point to this. Strategy can play an important role in dealing with conflict. I will get to that in my next post. Stay tuned.