What Is Strategy?

I have tried to answer this question, “What is Strategy”, for myself many times and failed. After looking at the prices for classes dealing with strategy, perhaps defining it  is something worth thinking about.

Of course I am kidding, but after looking at one of the classes listed: (Risk Management for Corporate Leaders; Integrating Best Practices for Superior Strategy Execution) the definition of strategy could come from understanding what this course is about.

It appears from the title that strategy is for leaders (in this case Corporate),  something that can be executed (in seemly superior and sub-superior manners), and is executed in something called practices (executed in an integrating manner between the best instead of the worst).

Some of the “practices”  (and seem to be mostly human practices) taken from the course’s “Key topics” are:

  • Behavior
  • Management
  • Processes
  • Events
  • Risks
  • Functions

So almost all the practices can be considered Ways of people.

As all Strategy covers three domains (End, Ways, and Means), this course’s key topics are the Ways of strategy, which the course’s statement: “…explore the many ways that strategies and enterprises can fail” seems to imply that the Means to failure is usually in the Way of humans. In my way of thinking, strategy’s End comes from the leaders, the Means is in the execution, and the Way is in practices.

So the program “Means” of controlling the “Way” of humans should be within the End of strategy, if this was a course in strategy. In strategy there are two Ends, the beginning of the End and the end of the End. The End is a explicit image as the word “recognize”  in the sentence, “…as well as how to recognize ” suggests. But it is the leaders who “recognize”, so perhaps it is safe to say that all “Ends” come from leaders.

From the program’s statement,,”You will learn how to develop and implement effective risk management processes”. To me the statement implies that the program doesn’t really teach Strategy–it teaches process. The “process” is the in “Way” of executing the  “Means” of strategy. The “Means” are all the resources available to the leader. This course teaches how to process the “way” of strategy. The resources in the process are mostly human, according to my bullet points.

Process, like planning and practices, is a part of strategy, but it doesn’t really answer the question: ‘What is Strategy”. After taking this course and learning the process that integrate the Means with the Ways, a person can still only hope to have a clear image of the End of strategic thinking. To get that, would take some kind of leadership course, so the definition of strategy can’t really come from this course.

Which leads me to ask another question, “Do they still have leadership courses at Harvard, if you are only going after a MBA?”

2 thoughts on “What Is Strategy?

  1. A golfer tried explaining strategy in terms of golf and it all seemed so easy. Perhaps, what business schools are now attempting to teach as strategy has always been in the domain of engineers and military commanders. In the end, shake hands, walk away and tomorrow is another day.

    • I agree, engineers and military commanders. Strategy is all about force, while process is all about time. In the OODA process, the time is the distance that the OODA travels (Kinetic Energy). The Strategy in the Double Freytag triangle is at the distance of the greatest and second greatest amount of force (Potential Energy).

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