What is Strategy Anyway?
The word strategy derives from the Greek "strategia," which means "office or command of a general." Of course, since the days of Alexander, usage of the word has expanded from the original military context. Today, strategy generally refers to plans, methods, or activities for obtaining desired results. In other words, strategy is about creating successful futures—however success is defined.
Strategy development typically is viewed as the process used to determine where an organization is going over the next three to five years—although some organizations have 10- and 20-year plans. That said, many organizations have survived and even thrived without explicit strategies during times of relative stability and little competition for customers or resources. Unfortunately, such conditions are short-lived these days.
Ways to conceive of strategy
The concept of strategy often confuses people, because the term is used in so many different ways—sometimes even by experts. Mintzberg, Ahlstrand, and Lampel frame the various conceptions of strategy as 5 P's. So strategy can be seen as a:
- Plan—a guide for a course of action or a path from a current state to a desired future state .
- Pattern—a consistency of behavior over time.
- Position—the location of particular products in particular markets.
- Perspective—the theory of the business, that is, a philosophy about interacting with customers or supplying products and services.
- Ploy—a means of gaining competitive advantage through specific maneuvers designed to outwit competitors or opponents.
What's strategic planning and why do it?
Strategic planning is the process many organizations use to prioritize action plans. In simple terms, it helps groups choose what to do and what not to do. The aim is to focus the whole organization on executing a single game plan. Strategic planning can also provide an outline for resource allocation and decision-making. Although there are hundreds of planning models, most strategic plans answer four basic questions:
- Where are we now?
- Where do we need to be?
- How will we close the gap?
- How will we monitor progress?
The thrust of good strategic planning is to be proactive about the future. When done right, strategic planning holds the potential to improve performance and counter internally focused, short-term thinking. It also enables organizations to address major issues at "the big picture" level and to communicate to everyone what matters most.