Fittingly for us, strategy is a word whose meaning has transformed.
Originally from the Greek strategia (generalship), from strategos (general, military commander), its dictionary definition has evolved to encompass ‘the science or art of combining and employing the means of war in planning and directing large military movements and operations’ right through to ‘a plan, method, or series of manoeuvres or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result’.
Strategy is a very much a living word that is constantly being defined and refined. Here is a selection of modern definitions that certainly provide food for thought.
- Strategy … is how we turn what we have into what we need to get what we want. Strategy is intentional – a pathway that we shape by making a series of choices about how to use resources in the present to achieve goals in the future. Strategy, thus, requires the courage to venture into the unknown, risk failure, say no to current demands, and yet commit to a course of action that we can only hypothesize will yield the desired outcome.
Ganz M (2009) Why David Sometimes Wins. Oxford University Press (p.8)
- Strategy [is] the planned or actual coordination of the firm’s major goals and actions, in time and space, that continuously co-align the firm with its environment.
Gill, R. (2006) Theory and Practice of Leadership. Sage Publications (pp.177-8)
- Whether a strategy will be successful or not is seldom predictable and usually uncertain. Thus if the strategy works, we will assume it’s the consequence of individual genius; if it fails, it’s because of stupidity. Yet there are many reasons for organizational success and failure and to retrospectively attribute success or failure to the role of individual leaders is a step too far; from correlation to causation – we know the result and retrospectively we assume (without robust evidence) that certain actions determined it.
Grint, K. (2008) Leadership, Management and Command. Rethinking D-Day. Palgrave Macmillan (p.4)
- A strategy is a coherent collection of actions that has a reasoned chance of improving results.
Friedman, M. (2005) Trying Hard is not Enough. How to Produce Measurable Improvements for Customers and Communities. Trafford Publishing (p.20)
- Strategy … is a verb – something you do, not something you have. An ongoing interactive process of experimentation, learning and adaptation, we strategize as we act.
Ganz M (2009) Why David Sometimes Wins. Oxford University Press. (p.8)
Unless otherwise noted, definitions are from The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition, Unabridged.