Strategy can be both a complicated and straightforward subject to understand....
It can be both clarifying and confusing. In an article I wrote this week for the MarketingProfs Web site and newsletter, I tried to sum it up in about 3000 words .... not an easy task.
As Mark Twain is reported to have said, "If I had more time I would have written less."
Writing something in 10 or 100 pages is often "easier" than writing it in one or 10. In the latter case, you really need to understand the essence of what you're writing about. There's no room for linguistic overhead.
As Jeannie Bliss writes in Chief Customer Officer, "It takes longer to crystallize your thoughts into meaning that can be delivered simply. It means that you have processed your intentions down to their critical points."
I wanted to share a paraphrased quote that I didn't include in the article. It's a nice distillation of the bridge between strategy and execution. The paraphrase is taken from Sun-Tzu, the well-known military strategist and author of The Art of War.
Strategy without action is futile, and action without strategy is fatal.
Essentially, a great strategy that has no action attached to it is like having a comprehensive exercise plan and then not doing any exercise. I've always loved the idea that you can read 100 books on fitness and exercise and it won't make you fit. You need to do something, to take action. As Emerson wrote, "The great of end of life is not knowledge, but action."
Also, if all you take is action, but there's no strategy or purpose behind it, it's like running on a treadmill .... all motion, no direction.
If you extend the Sun-Tzu paraphrase above, you could replace strategy with the word objective and action with strategy.
An objective without a strategy is futile, and a strategy without an objective is fatal.
In other words, action needs a strategy like strategy needs an objective.
A prerequisite for crafting a strategy is clearly defining the objective or ends. If people say that they have a strategy, then you have to know what they are trying to achieve – what is it that they are trying to accomplish. A strategy is created to help reach some desired state (or end/goal state).
In some ways it's basic, fundamental stuff–but we can't forget what Peter Drucker often said (paraphrased) .... the "simple" questions are often the hardest for companies (or executives/managers) to answer – and often the most insightful when answered.
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