What is Strategy? And How Is It Obtained? (Part I)

While seeking a successful supply chain, chances are that one of the first three things every “consultancy” will mandate is the need for “supply chain strategy”, which must be in-line with the “business strategy”, where strategy is defined, on Wikipedia, as a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. But what does it entail? And how is it achieved?

It’s a good question, and one that Walter Kiechel III tried to answer in Seven Chapters of Strategic Wisdom over on Strategy+Business with his shortcut to the big themes in the conversation about corporate strategy. In the article, he offers a review of the best writing on strategy: not books, but seven of the best chapters from books related to the topic which covers the main definitions and arguments put forth by:

In essence, these “critical chapters” in strategic history defined strategy as:

  • the determination of the basic long-term goals and objectives of an enterprise and the adoption of courses of action and the allocation of resources necessary for carrying out these goals;
  • the pattern of major objectives, purposes or goals and essential policies and plans for achieving those goals, stated in such a way as to define what business the company is in or is to be in and the kind of company it is or is to be;
  • that which provides competitive advantage (which, in Porter’s viewpoint, basically boiled down to the pursuance of cost leadership, differentiation, or narrow focus on a geography, territory, or product segment);
  • an emergent property that begins with the hand the organization has been dealt and goes from there, with all the existing strengths and weaknesses, setting off in a general direction where the organization runs into reality — including markets, products, and competitors that don’t behave the way the organization expects them to, learn from organizational mistakes, make corrections, and “execute like hell”;
  • an exercise in pattern recognition, which is often centred around emerging technology and its “S” curve;
  • an attack mentality, even if it means innovating to supplant current organizational technology; and
  • a means of getting past the fallacies of predetermination, detachment, formalization, and marketing myopia.

However, a strategy:

  • has to indicate how the long-term goals translate into short term actions;
  • has to address geography and internationalization;
  • could also be differentiated in terms of service, environmental impact, or market definition;
  • has to be proactive as well as reactive;
  • has to be able to shape patterns as well as recognize them;
  • has to be defensive as well as offensive; and
  • has to account for the unknown.

Thus, these definitions, on their own, are not a sufficient definition of strategy. So what is? And given a definition, how is a strategy created? Part II will explore some other definitions of strategy and arrive at a working definition of business strategy.

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