Adjectives tell you something important about strategy

I encourage you always to have an adjective to associate with the word strategy. For example, use the adjective clever to describe a configuration of ways and means of strategy (a clever strategy) that results in a relatively weak competitor gaining the advantage.

Another example is the use of the adjective good, which is explained in Richard Rumelt’s excellent book, Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters.Good strategy has three distinguishing characteristics: a diagnosis of the situation, a set of essential choices (called guiding policy), and coherent action in the organization to pursue those essential choices. Good strategy is mostly the hard work of identifying and solving problems and exploiting opportunities. Rumelt explains that a bad strategy is one that’s all about desired performance outcomes. Bad strategy is “a stretch goal, a budget, or a list of things you wish would happen.”[i]

Everyone wants to have a strategy that’s clever or powerful or good or effective or brilliant or nuanced. Similarly, no one would be satisfied if their strategy was labeled stupid, weak, bad, ineffective, dull, or generic.

Adjectives also tell you something about strategic thinking, which is why I’ve chosen to associate the word competent with the individual strategic thinker. I encourage you to assess the individuals around you: Are they sharp minds in touch with the situation? Are they acting reasonably?

A competent strategic thinker is more likely to craft good strategy. An incompetent strategic thinker is more likely to craft bad strategy.

.…The above is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of How to Think Strategically, available at all major booksellers. The book’s big idea is that strategic thinking is an individual competency that can be recognized and developed. As individuals steadily improve their capacity to think strategically, the organization gains potential to craft strategy that is good, powerful, effective, clever, and nuanced.

“Without question one of the most useful books I have read — a must-read for all who wish to build their skills and expand their views beyond just creative, critical and systems thinking.” Paul O”Connor

[i] Bad strategy is: See Richard Rumelt, Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters (New York: Currency, 2011), 42.

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Are You Strategic?

Many people have been told in their performance reviews, “You need to be more strategic.” With a definite tone of frustration in their voices, they ask, “What do you mean be more strategic?”

The phrase be more strategic likely was not meant to invite the person to participate in developing enterprise strategy. The speaker more likely intended it as an instruction to enlarge one’s perspective to be less absorbed in their specialized daily work and to coordinate their efforts with the efforts of others, including sacrificing their personal efficiency to serve the broader interests of the organization.

In this sense, a person who is more strategic holds a more systematic view of the organization and its fit with the external environment. She has learned the structures and disciplines that characterize her organization and its context of stakeholders, suppliers, regulators, and the like. With this knowledge, she is able to more adroitly coordinate her activities with others.

As an adjective, the word strategic is often used as a decoration – for example, strategic leadership, strategic plans, strategic decisions, and strategic markets. Mostly, when people use strategic as an adjective, they are signaling their opinion of the importance of the noun being modified. Used this way, the adjective strategic is self-indulgent and many people use it to advance their personal status within the organization.

Most organizations have too many strategic things, a cacophony of goals and aspirations in competition with each other. The indiscriminate use of the adjective strategic adds to the ambiguity and doesn’t reduce it. Ideally, the adjective strategic should link to the organization’s strategy and ideally the organization’s strategy should be good and not bad.

.…The above is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of How to Think Strategically, available at all major booksellers. The book’s big idea is that strategic thinking is an individual competency that can be recognized and developed. As individuals steadily improve their capacity to think strategically, the organization gains potential to craft strategy that is good, powerful, effective, clever, and nuanced.

“Provides all the necessary tools and insight to help you become an influential strategic thinker. A great read.” Jeroen De Flander