Ask a simple question, get a complicated answer.
Or rather, get a long list of different answers. Strategy is a word that gets easily bandied around, yet rarely have I heard a clear, simple, straightforward definition. I’m not talking about building a strategy. There’s a lot that goes into doing so and it can be hard work. I’m talking about explaining what strategy is, to someone like my mother. If she can understand the concept, I’ve cracked the nut.A quick search on Oxford English Dictionary’s website suggests that strategy is…
“In (theoretical) circumstances of competition or conflict, as in the theory of games, decision theory, business administration, etc., a plan for successful action based on the rationality and interdependence of the moves of the opposing participants.”
Alfred D. Chandler, once a professor at Harvard and John Hopkins University, submits that strategy is…
“…the determination of the basic long-term goals and objectives of an enterprise, and the adoption of courses of action and the allocation of resources necessary for carrying out these goals.”
Okay. That’s a little better. But I still have to think about it. And a little too complicated for mom.
One of the best ways I have heard to frame the concept comes from Simon Sinek, from his book Start With Why. (I may be bastardizing his theory slightly to fit my model. Such is life.) Sinek’s framework of the Golden Circle illustrates the three distinct and interdependent elements that make an organization function at its greatest potential.
At the centre of circles lies the “why” – the core purpose, vision, or motivation that gets organizations revving, propelling employees out of bed in the morning. It is, in essence, the rallying cry (and the subject of another post).
A great example of this in Sinek’s book comes from Apple, whose “why” is…
“Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.”
That’s a pretty good reason to get up in the morning and go to work, don’t you think?The “how” – that’s strategy, it’s the sign post that directs you toward living up to your “why,” the guiding principle. How does Apple challenge the status quo and think differently?
“The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.”
Now that’s a strategy I can get my head around. Apple’s business is entirely driven by making beautifully designed, easy to use products. Clear and simple.
The “what” – those are tactics, the specific steps taken to build your business and achieve your goals. If the signpost of your “how” points you in the right direction, the tactics are the ways you are going to get there.
WHY = PURPOSE
“And we happen to make great computers. Wanna to buy one?”
HOW = STRATEGY
WHAT = TACTICS