Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Breaking Down Strategy

Lois Geller contributed a very interesting piece to Forbes recently, dealing with strategy. Why Strategy Matters has an excellent example of Strategy vs. Tactics, in describing the Illiad’s section on the Trojan Horse.

Geller describes the frustration of the Greek armies, unable to scale the walls of Troy to conquer the city and take back Menelaus’ wife Helen. Their strategy had involved trying to knock down or disable those walls to get inside. When they were foiled, the switched the strategy: instead of huffing and puffing to blow the walls in, they would convince the Trojans to open the walls themselves. The Trojan Horse was the Tactic for this, but the strategy was the “How” of the equation.

It’s a great piece, and an excellent way to highlight the difference between strategy and tactics. It got me thinking, how often do we confuse strategy and tactics? So I went back to my MBA text, Crafting & Executing Strategy: The Quest for Competitive Advantage: Concepts and Cases, and on page 4, found this simple definition:

A company’s strategy consists of the competitive moves and business approaches that managers are employing to grow the business, attract and please customers, compete successfully, conduct operation, and achieve the targeted level of organizational performance. 

 It’s really a mouthful. I wanted even more abstract. Here’s what I came up with:

Objective: What you want to happen
Strategy: How you will make that happen
Tactic: A specific action item of your strategy

In the case of the Trojan War:

Objective: Retrieve Helen, Conquer Troy
Original Strategy: Use military force to knock down Troy’s walls and invade
Revised Strategy: Have the Trojans open their own walls and invade
Tactic: Hide the military in a giant horse that the Trojans bring within the city walls.

What I really like about this breakdown is that you can apply it to anything, and then knit objectives and strategies together in a functioning matrix.

Objective: Increase Lead Conversion
Strategy: Engage customers over social media
Tactic: Search Twitter for customers who are asking questions about the product

Objective: Collect donations for food pantry
Strategy: Share information on social media networks
Tactic: Ask your existing network to ask their networks

What do you think? Is this too simple? How do you define strategy?