Strategy is not what many people think it is. It is not a fill-in-the-blanks mission statement blathering about how XYZ Corp. will ethically serve its stakeholders by implementing best-in-class integrated sustainable practices to grow as a global leader while maximizing shareholder value. Such bafflegab is “Dilbert“-fodder that generates cynicism and contempt. It is, at best, a big waste of time.
Neither is strategy a declaration that the ABC Co. will increase sales by 20 percent a year for the next five years, with a profit margin of at least 20 percent. Strategy is not the resolve to hunker down and try harder -- what Kenichi Ohmae of McKinsey criticized in a 1989 Harvard Business Review article as “do more better.” Effort is not strategy. Neither are financial projections. And neither are wishes.
A strategy “is a way of dealing with a high-stakes challenge,” Rumelt told me in an interview. “It’s a way around the obstacles or problems in a difficult situation.”
Every good strategy, he writes, includes what he calls the kernel: a “diagnosis” of the challenge (“What’s going on here?”), a “guiding policy” for dealing with that challenge (the core idea often called a strategy), and a set of “coherent actions” to carry out that policy (the implementation).
I've seen enough corporate strategies to choke a polar bear but could never really put my finger on what was wrong with them. Then again, I am not the one to create these things either. Criticism is always easier to do than create, and it's a lot more fun.