What, Exactly, Is A Strategy?

 

I work with a lot of CIOs and heads of strategy in Australia and the Asia Pacific area – particularly concerning the development and updating of their IT strategies. As a part of our strategy document review service, I have seen plenty of approaches to IT strategies – from “on a single page” position statements through to hugely detailed documents that outline every project that will take place over the next 5-10 years.

While it can be argued that an IT strategy can’t really be strategic at all if it is just responding to business needs and requests (isn’t that just an IT plan?), the broader question of “what, exactly is a strategy?” is rarely touched upon.

I was fortunate to be invited to TCS’s recent Australian customer summit in Sydney. I was particularly attracted by the high caliber of the speakers and audience. One of the speakers whose presentation I found fascinating was Richard Rumelt, from UCLA Anderson – author of the book Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. His presentation focused on “what makes a good strategy, and how do you identify a bad one.” I really like his definition of what a strategy is:

A strategy is a coherent mix of policy and action designed to surmount a high-stakes challenge.

The basis of a good strategy is to diagnose the challenge, develop a guiding policy and create coherent policies and actions.

You know it’s a bad strategy when it:

-          Is all performance goals (i.e., we plan to increase our profit margin by 30% by 2015)

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