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Strategy Questions

How Can Strategy Be Defined?

What is the definition of strategy and how do various strategy definition compare?

There is a lot of talk about strategy and the need to be more strategic in your thinking if you want business to succeed but I don’t think there is any agreed definition of strategy.

In fact, looking through various strategy books, many authors have shied away from defining strategy.

Online dictionary definitions of strategy tended to emphasise military strategy and didn’t provide the clarity I was looking for.

The link to the military isn’t surprising as the original Greek word, stratos means army.

The Definition Of Strategy – Strategy Definition From Various Sources

My Strategy Definition

Since this is my blog, I thought I’d start with my definition of strategy which I wrote about in the article What is Strategy:

“Strategy is how you achieve your own objectives by winning the hearts, minds and business of customers by out-thinking and outmanoeuvring competitors.”

Before I delve into other definitions of strategy, I like my version because:

  • It is customer focused – the customer is the ultimate judge of whether a strategy is successful based on whether he or she is willing to buy at the price offered. It also recognises that customers must be influenced rationally and emotionally.
  • It’s also focused on achieving the objectives of the person or business developing the strategy.
  • It emphasises both thought and action
  • It brings in competitors who by following their own strategies will be trying to stop you from succeeding.

Let’s see if other definitions of strategy are better or more comprehensive.

Wikipedia Strategy Definition

The first definition of strategy from Wikipedia emphasises strategy’s routes in military campaigns and warfare.

“Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked. How a battle is fought is a matter of tactics: the terms and conditions that it is fought on and whether it should be fought at all is a matter of strategy, which is part of the four levels of warfare: political goals or grand strategy, strategy, operations, and tactics. Building on the work of many thinkers on the subject, one can define strategy as “a comprehensive way to try to pursue political ends, including the threat or actual use of force, in a dialectic of wills – there have to be at least two sides to a conflict.”

To pick up the issue of business strategy I looked at the definition of strategic management in Wikipedia:

“Strategic management is a field that deals with the major intended and emergent initiatives taken by general managers on behalf of owners, involving utilization of resources, to enhance the performance of ?rms in their external environments.[1] It entails specifying the organization’s mission, vision and objectives, developing policies and plans, often in terms of projects and programs, which are designed to achieve these objectives, and then allocating resources to implement the policies and plans, projects and programs.  ”

Johnson and Scholes Definition Of Strategy

In their book, Exploring Corporate Strategy, Johnson and Scholes define strategy

“Strategy is the direction and scope of an organisation over the long-term: which achieves advantage for the organisation through its configuration of resources within a challenging environment, to meet the needs of markets and to fulfil stakeholder expectations”.

Kenneth Andrews Strategy Definition

In his book, The Concept of Corporate Strategy, Kenneth Andrews says

“Corporate strategy is the pattern of decisions in a company that determines and reveals its objectives, purposes, or goals, produces the principal policies and plans for achieving those goals, and defines the range of business the company is to pursue, the kind of economic and human organization it is or intends to be, and the nature of the economic and non-economic contribution it intends to make to its shareholders, employees, customers, and communities.” (pp.18-19)

More Definitions Of Strategy Are Needed

I’ll add to this blog as I find more definitions of strategy but you can help me too by leaving a comment.

How do you define strategy?

Or do you know of a definition of strategy which you find powerful and convincing?

While I believe strategy is important, the more I think about it, the more it seems strange that there aren’t popular definitions for strategy.

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning

Important Strategy Questions – Seven Strategy Questions

I’ve been writing a series of articles about strategy questions so when I learnt that Harvard Business School professor Robert Simons has written a book called Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution, it seems appropriate to include details of the questions.

The Seven Strategy Questions

1. Who Is Your Primary Customer?

2. How Do Your Core Values Prioritize Shareholders, Employees, and Customers?

3. What Critical Performance Variables Are You Tracking?

4. What Strategic Boundaries Have You Set?

5. How Are You Generating Creative Tension?

6. How Committed Are Your Employees to Helping Each Other?

7. What Strategic Uncertainties Keep You Awake at Night?

I haven’t read the book yet but I do think they are an interesting set of strategy questions.

You can learn more at the Harvard Business School blog.

The Five Questions To Build A Strategy

On the Harvard Business Review website, Roger Martin, the Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto in Canada wrote about the five questions to build a strategy.

1. What are our broad aspirations for our organization & the concrete goals against which we can measure our progress

2. Across the potential field available to us, where will we choose to play and not play?

3. In our chosen place to play, how will we choose to win against the competitors there?

4. What capabilities are necessary to build and maintain to win in our chosen manner?

5. What management systems are necessary to operate to build and maintain the key capabilities?

What Do You Think The Important Strategic Questions Are?

Do you have a set of strategy questions you think a business owner or management team should answer to help develop an effective strategy?

If so, please share them in the comment section below.

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning, Great Business Questions

Why Is Strategy Important To Business Owners?

It’s easy to see why strategy is important for big businesses but why is it important for business owners as well?

What is Strategy?

In the article:

>>> What Is Strategy And Strategic Positioning?

I defined strategy as:

“How you achieve your own objectives by winning the hearts, minds and business of customers by out-thinking and outmanoeuvring competitors.”

This puts the emphasis on:

  • your objectives
  • winning and then delighting customers
  • whilst having competitors trying to stop you.

Hidden from view but still important is the fact that you have to do this in a wider economic, political and social environment that may help or may inhibit what you want to achieve.

Boom times make it easier to achieve your objectives. Recessions force you and your customers to up their game or risk finding that they can no longer afford to play it.

Why Is Strategy Important To Big Businesses?

Before looking at why owner-managers need to take the time crafting a strategy, I think it’s worth looking at the benefits of strategy to big businesses. [continue reading…]

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning

What Is Strategy And Strategic Positioning?

Strategy? It’s obvious what is strategy, isn’t it?

Perhaps not.

What is Strategy?

My personal definition of strategy is:

“Strategy is how you achieve your own objectives by winning the hearts, minds and business of customers by out-thinking and outmanoeuvring competitors.”

Professors Johnson and Scholes, authors of the MBA text Exploring Corporate Strategy say:

“Strategy is the direction and scope of an organisation over the long-term: which achieves advantage for the organisation through its configuration of resources within a challenging environment, to meet the needs of markets and to fulfil stakeholder expectations”.

Professor Henry Mintzberg from McGill University defines strategy as

“a pattern in a stream of decisions”.

He wanted to get away from the idea that to have a strategy, you have to do strategic planning or have a strategic plan. He argues that strategy emerges from decisions and actions rather than as a result of planning activities.

The Fit Between Positioning & Capabilities

Strategy is about providing a consistent match (or what is called strategic fit) between two words – your positioning and your capabilities. [continue reading…]

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning

Why Business Strategy Is Important

Have you asked yourself…

“Why Is Business Strategy Important?”

The business strategy of a company provides the big picture that shows how all the individual activities are coordinated to achieve a desired end result.

It is through the strategy process that the overall direction of the business is set. This is based on the opportunities and threats in the outside world and the internal strengths and weaknesses of the business.

Your Strategy As A Reaction To Environmental Changes That Have Happened Or You Expect to Happen

As the external environment changes, perhaps due to changes in customers or competitors or perhaps due to the wider forces – political, economic, social, technological, environmental or legislation based – it is important to come back and ask some fundamental questions. [continue reading…]

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning

Why Doesn’t Strategy Work?

I’ve deliberately written a contentious title, “Why Doesn’t Strategy Work” because I believe the opposite.

When it’s done right, spending time on developing and implementing your business strategy is some of the best and well rewarded time an entrepreneur can spend.

But I also have to admit that when it is done wrong, strategy doesn’t work.

There are two areas which make business strategy fail.

  1. Mistakes made in strategy planning and development
  2. Mistakes made in implementing the strategy

In strategy planning and development, either no strategy has been developed or a poor strategy, doomed to failure has been created.

In the strategy implementation stage, the strategy itself is sound but the implementation of the strategy fails because senior management fails to lead the team of employees and change systems and processes to develop the new capabilities.

I am planning to go into these two issues in more detail in future blogs:

Planning Mistakes

Implementation Mistakes

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning, Business Problems And Mistakes