The word strategy, often used and much abused, could benefit from clarity. While no doubt there are countless experts in the space and those espousing iterations of definition, we like to lean into the definitions put forth by Bernadette Jiwa, who explains the strategy through The Story of Telling, and it goes something like this:
Suppose you were on a riverbank and the place you want to reach is on the other side. That is your destination or your objective. There are no bridges, low waters, sand bars or obvious places to cross. So, you need a plan to get from here…to there.
Rather than walking farther up the river to find a place to cross, you make a plan to decide to cross the river exactly at the spot where you’re currently standing. Now you have a plan to get to the other side.
This is your strategy.
It doesn’t tell how you’re going to cross over the river, it simply states your commitment to a plan: My strategy is to cross the river from this point.
Next, you decide that rather than using a boat or constructing a bridge, you are going to use a series of large steppingstones to cross successfully to your destination. Decisions that assessed how you cross the river, be it by boat, bridge or the type of steppingstones and how far apart they’re placed, are tactical.
The process breaks down like this:
- Objective: The What – I want to reach a destination on the other side of the riverbank.
- Strategy: The Way – I plan to cross the river to get there, and I will start from this point.
- Tactics: The How – I will use oversized steppingstones, placed 10 inches apart and walking sticks for balance to get to the others side.
River levels or conditions may change over time, and that means you may have to adjust your tactics (the how), but the strategy (the way) remains the same. If and when you make the decision that the strategy (or the way you’re crossing the river) needs to change to meet the objective (the what).
Good strategy is concise, actionable and designed to set a direction to get you to your (measurable) destination. Nothing more and nothing less.