Top 10 Strategy Myths
Strategy is a loaded word. A good strategy creates and sustains winners, and businesses pay millions to consulting firms to help create them. After we conducted multiple interviews with leaders at all levels, it’s clear that strategy myths persist. So we thought we’d try to bring clarity.
For the record, our view of strategy is that it’s a plan to achieve a vision. You need a vision, and areas to focus on that, if you do them, will result in your vision being achieved. It’s implied that there are activities you won’t do, because we all know that without focus, nothing is achieved.
1. Only leaders do strategies
Everyone plans, so everyone can use a strategy. A strategy is all about what you’re going to focus on to achieve a clear vision (goal / objective). So, every time you try and do anything a strategy can help. It will vary in size, complexity and who’s involved, but will help. The best leaders understand how to use strategy creation to bring others with them.
2. Strategy must transform
Looking at the websites of the big consultancies dramatic phrases like ‘transformation’ and ‘disruption’ are prominent. In some cases transformation is required, e.g. failing businesses. In many, however, continuous evolution works better, building on great foundations to continue growth. This is a hard lesson to learn though, as drama sells.
3. Using the word ‘Strategy’ makes me appear more senior
Bizarrely, sometimes it can. It’s a buzz word. Executives often use the word to make themselves sound clever, or indicate they’re focused on the big picture. Don’t assume someone using the word strategy knows what they’re talking about. Many people can’t even clearly define the word.
4. Strategies are complicated
They can be. But we find that the best ones are the simplest. The most important reason is that simple and clear plans are understood and bought into by the team that has to implement them.
5. Strategies are only for big things
From the smallest task, like planning a meal, to massive change programs, a good strategy will help with speed, quality and cost.
6. A good strategy will cost me a lot
It can. The number of people who say, “I paid X consultancy $Ym and nothing changed” is huge. But it needn’t be like that. We’ve seen many great strategies that cost relatively little deliver great results. Measure by clarity and buy in, rather than invoice size.
7. I don’t need a strategy
If you want to achieve any task, then you’ll do better with a plan. It may be subconscious, short, simple, but it will almost certainly help. And if you want others to contribute or join you on your journey a clear strategy will greatly increase your chances of success.
8. Strategy is scary
Because of the implication that its important and for senior people, strategy can be a scary subject for some. Even top executives are scared by the term and often avoid it. You would be shocked by the number of Fortune 500 companies that don’t have a clear strategy that the organization buys into.
9. Strategy and execution aren’t linked
Ridiculous. We see people trying to separate them all the time. Create a great plan and execute it. You need both to do great work. Stop over-analyzing it.
10. Strategy is a fixed thing
A strategy should be a living, breathing thing. It’s a framework, to be reviewed and updated. The world seems to be changing faster and faster, so if you’re blinkered you might miss something that should be incorporated into the strategy. Having a strategy gives you a great way to do this though as you can decide what you’re going to stop doing in order to incorporate the new activity.
It's our view that virtually anything works better with a plan, or strategy. The level of planning depends on the situation, and in most cases simple is best. Simplicity drives clarity and engagement with those who are executing, which in turn betters results. And after all, results are (or should be) the purpose of any strategy.