There seems to be no simple definition for strategy, accepted by academics and practitioners. The lack of a definition led to the comment in The Economist “Nobody really knows what strategy is.” (Economist March, 20 1993).  Strategy guru, Gary Hamel called this the “dirty little secret of the industry”.

dirty little secret of the strategy industry

How do you categorise your process?  Is your approach logical or creative.  Is it deliberate or emergent, revolutionary or evolutionary.  Do you focus on the market or on the company’s resources?  Are you governed by responsiveness or synergy, competition or cooperation? Are you creative and entrepreneurial, based on formal, systematic and comprehensive planning or based on effective responses to unexpected opportunities and problems. Or do you apply all of the above as appropriate?

Whatever your approach, a good strategy will:

  • Create competitive advantage: What unique attribute attracts your chosen customers to deal with you instead of your competitors.
  • Describe how you make a difference: What is the difference you make that counts to your market?
  • Clarify and exploit what you do better: What core competencies or unique resources do you employ to create an unassailable or at least discouragingly (to the competition) superior market position.
  • Include ways to reduce costs: What do you manage to increase your potential to earn a persistently higher rate of profit without limiting your capacity to provide value and grow?
  • Focus on choices: Successful strategies include discerning decisions about the opportunities you will ignore in order to make the most of others. These choices must be explicit, the decisions clear. You have limited talent, time and money. How will you use these best?
  • Build congruency: It must all fit together. Your target market should be able to understand your brand. Your systems and process should be mutually reinforcing, appropriate to the environment in which you operate.
  • Prepare you for change: The future will always be uncertain, even with the benefit of wide ranging futures research. Organisations which prevail will be those who either change the rules or are mobile enough to learn and adapt. Being big enough to batten down the hatches to weather the onslaught may also work, to a point.
  • Rally your people: You will be depending on the imagination and motivation of the people in your organisation to implement your strategy and plan. Do they know your strategy? Is everyone energised with the plan? Is this the lens through which they view your business?
  • Happen: Almost all strategy failure is because of poor execution. Abraham Lincoln once lamented that his generals thought they could win the civil war simply by clever strategy and they had yet to learn that victory would require bloody battles. There is a discipline required to pushing towards strategic goals on a daily, weekly and monthly basis while completing the everyday processes of the business of your organisation.

The process for defining your strategy should lead you to:

  • Embrace uncertainty
  • Revel in confusion
  • Recognise your compelling direction
  • Translate your Vision and Purpose into a plan
  • Execute your plan

At StrategyWorks we use the following steps to lead teams through the process to define strategy:

  • Pre-session preparation:  The people to attend a strategy offsite are asked to prepare for the session by collecting feedback on strategic successes and failures from their teams.
  • Past performance analysis:  Review the results and learnings from the implementation of the current strategy.
  • External analysis:  Reviewing uncertainties in the environment and defining scenarios.
  • Craft, review and update the strategy core:  Review the Purpose, Values and Vision of your organisation.  Agree the Mission for the next period as well as


Contact us at StrategyWorks to learn more about how we can assist you to define and execute your strategy.