Strategy. We hear that word batted around ALL THE TIME… “what’s the strategy?”, “tell me more about the strategy?”, “Our strategy is…” “Julie is highly strategic”, “Bob is not very strategic”. Strategy is one of those words and a concept that everyone you ask has a slightly different view and the word is always in the definition they use. To me these are things people say who cannot articulate what their vision is, or what the overall strategic plan is in a way meaningful to those around them. When you are in a place of leadership, or power, your definition of ‘strategic’ is what counts. When Bob isn’t a mind reader he is viewed as ‘not strategic’. My interpretation, or definition, of strategy is big picture, long term thinking. Are you looking at the larger scheme of things, are you planning, or are you reacting? Are you aligning your work to the overall organization strategic plan? Reacting, I think we can all agree is not strategic. But, how big the picture is, and how you are planning and forward thinking leaves a lot to interpret, and highly dependent on where a person sits and what they see.
There is no doubt, that having a strategic plan, which basically sums up how your organization is going to meet the mission and vision, is necessary. Without a strategic plan we are all just ships (or canoes) out at sea drifting, possibly rowing feverishly, in any direction we decide (see reactive). The word strategic has become so overused in an abundance of circumstances that it has left many scratching their heads, doubting their own way of thinking and acting.
What some view as strategic, I see as manipulative. You could argue that it is a fine line between influencing and manipulating, but maybe we can put that aside for a moment, or for a future rambling of mine. I have seen people confuse being strategic with need for change management. Change management is about gathering people, gaining buy in and alignment. It is a part of the strategy of how you are going to get done what you need to. But others hide behind strategy and throw that word on it, as if it is the end all be all for every conversation on the topic. “This is the strategy”, interpret, “this is what we are doing, done” or “I know best because I am strategic and you are not.” Or when the boss says “what’s your strategy”, what they really mean is, “how are you going to get those others down the hall to do what we say?”.
Now you might say, well Rachael you are not being very strategic sharing your view on this, you are alienating people who define themselves as ‘highly strategic’. That may be true. I would ask to consider, why is that? Why is there a bubble of mystique around this word, that has no single definition? Why is that when people put the word strategy next to them it someone how provides this element of “I know the way”, like some sort of messiah. If as a leader, you have people on your team that are “not strategic” I would review your definition, share your definition (i.e. expectations), and make sure that you are articulating the “strategic plan” for your business function. Organizations want people who are “strategic thinkers”. All that means, is that you are thoughtful/planful about the work that you do, is appropriate to your role and scope, and you are aligned to where the organization is going. No magic. Maybe this is another word we can stop using to alienate people. Making people feel inferior that they are missing something because they are told they aren’t strategic. You aren’t missing anything.
“Strategy is fancy word for coming up with a plan and putting it into action.” ~Ellie Pidot