“What is a strategy?”
For this special 100th episode (and blog post), I thought it would be fun to answer the question of all questions; the one that tops them all, both literally and figuratively; the question that everyone has but nobody wants to ask….
“What is a strategy?”
You would think that after 99 podcast episodes and 99 blog posts, I would feel pretty comfortable that this question has been answered in any number of different ways already. But the truth is, although we’ve certainly gone deep into nearly every nook and cranny on the subjects of product and business strategy, I thought it would be nice on this commemorative occasion to take a few steps back and make sure that we’re all aligned as to what this thing we call “strategy” is really all about. And that, I hope, will set us up more than nicely for the next 100 episodes and beyond!
So, here’s the easiest answer I can give: Strategy is nothing more than a plan to achieve a goal. That’s pretty much it. Of course, I’m not going to end my 100th blog post after just 3 paragraphs, so I’ll expand my answer a little bit from here. But, honestly, not that much.
Let’s say that my goal is to become a millionaire. Sounds pretty reasonable. If I just have that goal, but no plan to achieve it, chances are that I’m going to be running after every opportunity and get-rich-quick scheme that comes my way. And then my chances of actually becoming a millionaire are going to be exponentially reduced because I’ll pretty much be relying on luck alone.
On the other hand, if I spent some time mapping out how I could realistically become a millionaire, I’d probably stand a much better chance of actually achieving my goal. Why? Because I’d be able to evaluate several different paths and then choose the one that is most likely to yield the results that I’m looking for. And that’s what makes a strategy strategic – being able to analyze your situation, evaluate different paths of action, and then choose the path that is most likely to result in you achieving whatever it is that you want to achieve.
The problem with this, of course, is that there are a lot of different ways that you can go about putting a plan like this together. And I’m afraid that any number of different companies, consultants, authors, and academics have devised their own distinct methodologies to help you do just that (myself included, by the way). But you shouldn’t let any of that throw you off course, so to speak, because, in fact, most of these frameworks tend to cover all the same basic things.
Take mine, for example. The framework that I teach through Strategy Generation Company has four main parts to it:
Vision – Determining the impact you want to have in the future
Analysis – Understanding your market, industry, and business
Planning – Choosing your goal, evaluating different strategic options, and determining a plan of action
Execution – Implementing your plan and tracking your results
It’s really no more complicated than that. And the more you analyze, the better your plan will be, and the more likely you’ll be to execute on your goal.
If you want to see an example of this framework in action, click on the image above and you can get a better understanding of how it all works. But, honestly, whether you choose to use my framework or any of the other thousands of frameworks that exist in the strategy stratosphere, the important thing is that you do, in fact, engage at some level in all of these strategic steps, and that you don’t just go through life thinking that random acts of anything are going to get you anywhere at all.
OK – so if you buy into what a strategy is, let’s now move on to why it’s so darn important to have one at all times.
Everyone in business is told that they need a strategy – mostly because a company’s investors usually want to have some level of assurance that their money is being spent more or less wisely. So, yeah, strategy is important if you want to have any kind of a career in the business world. But, honestly, to me, it’s about so much more than that.
In today’s environment of information overload, it seems that success is being measured more and more on speed than on accuracy. Is somebody tweeting about you? Well, you better respond quickly before the social media mob starts to react. Do you have a line on a good story? Then you better get it out there and steal away those clicks before anyone else beats you to the punch. Even in the world of email, if someone writes something that you disagree with and then proceeds to copy half the world on it, you’ll probably feel compelled to react, respond, and set the record straight as soon as humanly possible, rather than taking the time to analyze and interpret what is actually being said.
What this all boils down to is that information is flowing at a much faster rate than we, as a society, can harness it – which also means that we’re probably all spending a lot more time reacting and a lot less time planning. And this, in my opinion, is NOT a good thing.
Did you just get an email that absolutely pissed you off? Don’t just pound out your response and hit send. Instead, analyze the situation, determine what you want to achieve with your response, plan out what you want to say, and then execute on that plan to achieve your goal.
Did something you just saw on TV get you angrier than you’ve been in a long time? Don’t just blurt out your emotions all over social media. Instead, analyze the situation, determine what you want to achieve with your response, plan out what you want to say, and then execute on that plan to achieve your goal.
Is your business being attacked somewhere in the Twitterverse? Don’t just randomly start firing people and issuing reactive apologies at the first signs of pressure. Instead, analyze the situation, determine what you want to achieve with your response, plan out what you want to say, and then execute on that plan to achieve your goal.
I can go on, but I think you get the point…
Just remember that the audience for your reactions has never been larger. And you can’t ever take those reactions back once you’ve let them out of the bag. So be smart about it and take a little time to plan. You might just find that everything isn’t exactly the way it initially appeared to be. And that applies to just about everything you can think of – in business and beyond.
So, with that little tidbit of advice, I give you my sincere and heartfelt thanks for helping me reach 100 posts! We’ll be back on our normal schedule of releasing a new podcast episode every other week, starting on January 6, 2020. And there are sure to be a few new surprises announced in December as well!
Until then, have a wonderful holiday season and, whatever you do, please don’t forget to make time for the plan…
Listen to the podcast episode
Dear Strategy: Episode 100
Are you interested in strategy workshops for your product, marketing, or business managers? If so, please be sure to visit Strategy Generation Company by clicking the link below:
Bob Caporale is the founder of Strategy Generation Company, the author of Creative Strategy Generation and the host of the Dear Strategy podcast. You can learn more about his work by visiting bobcaporale.com.