The etymology of ‘strategy’ comes from a Greek word stratēgía which means stratēg(ós) military commander + ēgos noun derivative of ágein (to lead) (re Thesaurus)
In military usage, a distinction is made between strategy and tactics.
Strategy is the utilization, during both peace and war, of all of a nation’s forces, through large-scale, long-range planning and development, to ensure security or victory.
Tactics deals with the use and deployment of troops in actual combat.
In today’s scenario, a lot of B2B organizations forget the critical difference between what comes first, strategy or tactics.
They start with tactics, in a knee-jerk reaction to the market environment, and name it strategy. A classic case of cart leading the horse!
B2B environments have always been choppy waters to navigate.
More so in today’s erratic political and economy settings.
In this scenario how would you define strategy for your firm in today’s unpredictable times?
Though Strategy is all about making choices, it is not just one or two choices, but a whole set of distinctive decisions that your firm needs to make.
Moreover, if these choices are reinforcing and interdependent, then you are on to a great start.
Of course, the first step is to look within the company, your objectives, environment, and competitive ecosystem, geographies, scope and value proposition.
This and more will lead you to your defined strategy.
After all this, build in flexibility because the strategy has a way of evolving in more tangents than the one you intend!
For example, the shift made from Intel’s strategy of being a memory chip producer to being a microprocessor producer was through an entirely different approach than the one intended by the top management.
A quote comes to mind of the late Andy Grove, ex-CEO of Intel said, “Let chaos reign, but then rein in chaos repeatedly.”
Andy was a true learner of corporate strategy. He understood that leaders need to adjust the way strategic decisions are made based on the context.
See his comments in the following quote from an article in Fortune “I had like to borrow a concept from physics to describe the difference between two types of strategic actions. If the effect of a company’s strategic action changes only its own competitive position but not the environment, the action is linear. In contrast, a nonlinear strategic action sets off changes in the environment that the company, as well as its competitors, then have to cope with.”
He further explains it with the following metaphor, “To see the difference, think of what happens when you stir a bowl of water vs. when you stir a bowl of cream. When you stir water, it starts swirling. The more vigorously you stir it, the faster it swirls–yet it remains water. By contrast, as you stir a bowl of cream, it gets thicker and thicker and eventually turns into butter. It becomes more and more difficult to stir, tiring you and causing you to slow down. The action affects the environment; the changing environment impacts further action.”
It is important to prioritize a strategy which also modifies the environment over the one which only alters you.
Easier said than done!