Outside Agile, Strategy is probably the most (ab)used word in the modern corporation.
I used to have a very basic definition of what a strategy encapsulates, which has four components:
- an analysis of the current state and how we got to where we are;
- a statement of the end goal we want to achieve;
- a broad direction giving the sort of things we want to do to move in the direction of the end goal; and
- a list of things we don’t want to do that serves as constraints on our possible plans.
In other words, a strategy defines the search space of possible plans we can consider, and planning is the act of searching the space to pin down a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, etc we will actually pursue.
I am reading Lawrence Freedman’s wonderful book Strategy: A History. A few pages in, there is already new clarity in my understanding of the word strategy. It’s best to hear directly from the horse’s mouth.
“By and large, strategy comes into play where there is actual or potential conflict, when interests collide and forms of resolution are required. This is why a strategy is much more than a plan. A plan supposes a sequence of events that allows one to move with confidence from one state of affairs to another. Strategy is required when others might frustrate one’s plans because they have different and possibly opposing interests and concerns.”
“The picture of strategy … is one that is fluid and flexible, governed by the starting point and not the end point.’
“So the realm of strategy is one of bargaining and persuasion as well as threats and pressure, psychological as well as physical effects, and words as well as deeds. This is why strategy is the central political art. It is about getting more out of a situation than the starting balance of power would suggest. It is the art of creating power.”