What is Strategy?

We just started a new year and you should seize the opportunity to review your company’s strategy. But what exactly is strategy and what does it mean?

Strategy, as “a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time” (Merriam-Webster), has been used for centuries in one form or another. The word strategy itself is derived from the Greek word strategos (for “military leader”) and refers to the role of the military leader in a war. The Art of War is a collection of warfare strategy depicting various strategies and tactics of different aspects of warfare. This collection dated 5th century BC is attributed to Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu and ever since has been adapted and used in business and law. One of the many quotes from The Art of War exemplifies the basis of strategic planning: “If you know both yourself and your enemy, you can win numerous battles without jeopardy”.

You need to know what your company is about, its vision and the specific steps you need to take to get to where you want to go. Or in other words: analyze the current state, assess your resources, formulate a plan, set your goals, and take action. Basically, strategy is a verbalized plan that will allow you to achieve your goals over a specified time with the resources available.

There are different types of strategy to consider:

Corporate Strategy describes a company’s direction in regards to growth and general management of their business units and product lines.
Business Strategy describes a company’s competitive position at the business unit level. It describes the company’s products/services in regards to the industry or market segment.
Functional Strategy describes a company’s approach to maximize resources and productivity at the functional levels (i.e. R&D, Marketing, HR, Finance, etc.) in order to offer a competitive advantage.
Operational Strategy describes the company’s day-to-day operational activities usually very narrow in focus and based on a set budget.

Strategy, at its core, is taking action that will set your company apart from your competitors. It is all about being different. It is about gaining and sustaining competitive advantage in your industry and market. What is your company’s strategic position and how is it different from your rivals? What unique value do you offer that sets you apart from your competitors and wins clients? Do you focus on the right goals and have the corresponding tactics in place to achieve them? What is your strategy for 2017?