Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What is Strategy?

Strategy is an integrated explanation of how an organization is going to guide its performance into the future.

That’s my basic definition.  This is the beginning of a blog series that will elaborate on this definition.  Let’s start with the big picture first.

I have reviewed hundreds of “strategic planning” documents from organizations.  And most of them don’t include much “strategy."  I have found that most organizations have lots of plans and activities in these documents, but very little strategy.

If you ask an organization (in any sector -- corporate, government, not-for-profit) for their strategy, then what you usually get is a collection of disconnected goals or initiatives.  Sometimes you get spreadsheets with revenue projections.  These are not a strategy!

Here’s the bottom line.

A strategy needs to provide high level direction to an organization on how it will guide its performance into the future – how it will accomplish its mission.  It does not provide “action plan” level details.  It provides “themes” that will be followed in the coming years.

A few years ago, Collins & Rukstad had this to say about strategy in an article they wrote in the Harvard Business Review*:  

“Leaders of firms are mystified when what they thought was a beautifully crafted strategy is never implemented. . . .  They fail to appreciate the necessity of having a simple, clear, succinct strategy statement that everyone can internalize and use as a guiding light for making difficult choices.”

That’s what a strategy is – a simple, clear, succinct statement.  Stay tuned to learn more about how to develop a strategy that will guide your organization toward Breakthroughs in your Mission Impact.

*"Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?" Harvard Business Review, April, 2008.

For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

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