What is strategy?

Strategy is designing a way to deal with a challenge. So, a good strategy needs to define the challenge, and a design for a way to overcome it.

To do so, a strategy needs to have 3 things: a diagnosis, a guiding policy, and coherent action.

Diagnosis: Define the challenge. What's holding you back? Try to simplify; all situations are complex, but what are the critical aspects of the situation? Try using analogies and existing frameworks to describe the challenge, which may by itself suggest a course of action.

Guiding Policy: What's your high level approach to solving the problem? What are the guardrails that will guide and constrain the actions you'll take?

Coherent Action: How will the guiding policy be carried out? The set of actions or tactics you come up with should be coherent. That is, your resources, policies, and individual steps taken should compliment each other, not conflict with each other, or even be independent from each other.

Good strategy:

  • is simple and obvious
  • identifies the key challenges to overcome
  • includes the actions you're going to take. Actions are not "implementation details"
  • is coherent. All individual actions support and mutually reinforce each other. This takes coordination across teams and orgs. This part is critical!
  • focuses and coordinates efforts. This means you have to say "no" to certain things.
  • leverages and creates strengths, bringing them to bear against relative weaknesses. The tactics of a good strategy should reinforce and build strength, not deplete your resources.

Bad strategy:

  • is fluffy, obtuse, jargon-y
  • is just a goal, without a plan
  • doesn't identify a challenge
  • lacks actions to take
  • is just a list of unrelated or conflicting priorities
  • says "yes" to too many things