The word “strategic” is often used as an adjective when describing an intervention, but I believe it is often used incorrectly and too freely in the modern business world. “We are making a strategic hire”… Ok, so are you just looking to hire someone new into the business to fill a resource requirement or are you looking to hire someone who is going to capitalise on an opportunity in the business and significantly move the needle? If the answer is the latter, you could consider it a strategic hire.
Having looked at various definitions of the word strategic, the common element that comes across frequently is the long-term advantage or gain that can be unlocked by being strategic.
The term strategy was initially used in a military context, emanating from times of war where troops were asked to hold strategic positions. These were positions that gave them a significant advantage over their enemies. It could be that the position was along a river that provided ease of access for replenishing supplies or provided an attractive means of escape if necessary, or it could be that it gave them a height advantage over surrounding areas, making it easier to defend. In business, for initiatives or interventions to be strategic, they really must unlock significant potential benefits or tangible advantages over your competitors.
As it states in the Harvard Business Review article, “Many Strategies Fail Because They’re Not Actually Strategies” by Freek Vermeulen, it correctly points out that for a strategy to be real, it needs to involve a clear set of choices. A business needs to be able to define what it is choosing to do and not choosing to do. This choice will drive mid- to long-term benefits for the business if the team can successfully execute this. This will be strategic if you choose to enter a specific new market with a specific product (hopefully for a specific and logical reason).
Many businesses seem to fall into the trap that they set their strategy without considering the choices they are making. They end up listing several goals and actions and call them strategic when, in truth, they are more likely tactical actions that need to take place to keep the business operating. A list of disparate but significant actions does not constitute a strategy… And does not make those actions strategic.
So, it certainly is recommended for businesses to be strategic, and this means the following:
- Understand what is going to give you a significant medium to long-term advantage over your competitors
- Consider all your strategic choices and be clear about what you are choosing to do and what you are choosing not to do
- Understand the difference between a goal, an action and a strategy that is put in place to achieve the specific goal
So don’t be strategic for strategy’s sake. Be focused and intentional about gaining a significant advantage and set out the plan to achieve this. Then comes the not-so-simple task of communicating the strategy in a simple, succinct and practical way to your teams to drive the successful execution of the said strategy, you can read more about that here.