For a few weeks, I’ve been struggling with the word “strategy.” I hear this word used, abused, misused and overused. There are all kinds of uses starting from “product strategy” and “strategic advisors” to “strategizing about a topic” and “strategic sourcing.” I certainly cannot put an end to this nonsense and will instead share my thoughts.
Perhaps as humans, we need to feel in control of the future. Maybe we need to feel smart or at least appear smart enough and able to pre-calculate for all kinds of eventualities. In aggregate we want to be seen commanding the events as part of some grand “strategy.” We actually reward the appearance of “strategy.” Imagine the public disappointment if presidents of countries or companies came out one day and admitted that they had no clue what particular entities of importance would do next, or that they were dealing as best as they could with the circumstances dealt to them. Are we really so good that we can have strategies for all levels of abstraction and all possible outcomes? Is the history the result of carefully crafted strategies? Am I the only one who thinks the “emperor has no clothes?”
My past experiences and observations so far indicate that strategy is a great human desire but not much more. Furthermore, the backward view of history and the chain of events appear to indicate a carefully crafted strategy yet looking forward we are unable to apply the same steps and expect the same outcomes. Was Georgia’s move, Russia’s countermove, and the Polish agreement part of one party’s strategy? Which party? I do not know (probably will never know for sure) but I doubt it. I think it is more likely that at any time, we as individuals, as families, as communities, and as countries analyze the circumstances and opportunities and try to make the best choices. In some cases, our choices turn into better future choices for ourselves, in other cases, they create better choices for others who later appear to have had the “better strategy.”
There are countless examples that can be viewed as proofs of perfect strategy. I suggest that the same examples can be seen as examples of one participant or another taking advantage of available opportunities. In the long run, I believe the exploitation of opportunities gives the appearance of strategy. Some people are excellent at seizing the moment and in the long run appear to have planned the outcomes all along like an olympic gymnast who performs flawlessly and wins the gold medal.
Perhaps it really does not matter what strategy means. Maybe we should instead focus on the true meaning and the implementation of the Golden Rule instead.