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  • Writer's pictureKrzysztof 'Chris' Daniel

You need to change your thinking about strategy. Now.

The Wikipedia definition of strategy:

Strategy is a general plan to achieve one or more long-term or overall goals under conditions of uncertainty.

gives the illusion that achieving goals is the primary purpose of any strategy.

Unfortunately, it does it at the expense of ordinary people who will be blamed if something goes wrong.

It is easier for me to explain the situation with the following scenario.

Imagine a stable software company that has achieved a steady 10% YtY over the past five years. The board, however, is disappointed with the results and has the ambition to achieve 40% YtY growth in the next 12 months.

Nobody knows whether this is possible. Plausible? Definitely. Possible? Nobody can learn that unless those 12 months pass. The board looks at the goal and at the highly uncertain conditions, recognises it does not have the capability to drive this growth alone, and decides to hire... a strategy consultant.

The first strategy consultant candidate does not believe that growth is achievable. Nor does the second one. The third one says it can be done, so the third one is hired. Remember that the attitude of consultants does not matter. Even if all of them believed that growth was realistic, it does not mean it was.

One way or another, the company ends up with a strategy consultant that commited to achieving growth hoping it was possible.

If the company fails to achieve its goals, the board will blame the consultant.

The consultant will avoid responsibility by playing the game called "Strategy was right, the execution failed" and pointing at employees with the smallest amount of political capital.

Those employees have nobody to point at, and the company as a whole suffers due to the eroded trust.

Does it sound familiar? Share your story with me on twitter or schedule a free call with me. I want to listen to your story and share it with my readers, anonymised. That might be quite an interesting series.

You, as an individual, are equally susceptible to the same pattern, but in a slightly different way. An individual person does not usually hire strategy consultants, but rather every day gadgets to solve a particular problem they experience. However, gadgets can't solve problems like strategy consultants can't remove uncertainty.

Buying a gym membership will not make you fit (that's the obvious one, but think about other situations where you replace real effort with delegation).

Getting out of the situation

Strategy is not about planning your way to achieving your goals, at all; this thinking will bring you misery.

I have an alternative defintion:

Strategy is a continous process of discovering opportunities (that can be discovered) and preventing risks (that can be prevented).

In other words, every day is a day zero. Every day, you start from scratch, you look at yourself, your company, your environment, and you ask yourself two very important questions:

  • where are my opportunities and what should I do to discover or capture them?

  • where are my risks and what should I do to avoid them?

Note how the focus changes from planning to doing. And I deeply recommend Ben Mosior's lecture about the Ideal Present framework which helps people do planning around those two questions. If you want to do something good for you today, spend 5 minutes watching it, and 25 planning what to do today/tomorrow to improve your situation.

Naturally, it does not mean that strategy consultants go away, but at least you have got the ability to see through them and plan accordingly.

BTW. You have probably observed that I am super interested in self development, and I would love to learn from you. If the focus on present works for you, I want to hear your story. If it doesn't, I want to hear your story even more. Talk to me on twitter or schedule a free call with me. I will be as good listener as I can :).

Ben Mosior's Planning with the Ideal Present lecture:

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