Strategy Definition – What is Strategy?

by Paul Simister on November 3, 2011

What is the definition of strategy and how do various strategy definition compare?

There is a lot of talk about strategy and the need to be more strategic in your thinking if you want business to succeed but I don’t think there is any agreed definition of strategy.

In fact, looking through various strategy books, many authors have shied away from defining strategy.

Online dictionary definitions of strategy tended to emphasise military strategy and didn’t provide the clarity I was looking for.

The link to the military isn’t surprising as the original Greek word, stratos means army.

The Definition Of Strategy – Strategy Definition From Various Sources

My Strategy Definition

Since this is my blog, I thought I’d start with my definition of strategy which I wrote about in the article What is Strategy:

“Strategy is how you achieve your own objectives by winning the hearts, minds and business of customers by out-thinking and outmanoeuvring competitors.”

Before I delve into other definitions of strategy, I like my version because:

  • It is customer focused – the customer is the ultimate judge of whether a strategy is successful based on whether he or she is willing to buy at the price offered. It also recognises that customers must be influenced rationally and emotionally.
  • It’s also focused on achieving the objectives of the person or business developing the strategy.
  • It emphasising both thought and action
  • It brings in competitors who by following their own strategies will be trying to stop you from succeeding.

Let’s see if other definitions of strategy are better or more comprehensive.

Wikipedia Strategy Definition

The first definition of strategy from Wikipedia emphasises strategy’s routes in military campaigns and warfare.

“Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked. How a battle is fought is a matter of tactics: the terms and conditions that it is fought on and whether it should be fought at all is a matter of strategy, which is part of the four levels of warfare: political goals or grand strategy, strategy, operations, and tactics. Building on the work of many thinkers on the subject, one can define strategy as “a comprehensive way to try to pursue political ends, including the threat or actual use of force, in a dialectic of wills – there have to be at least two sides to a conflict.”

To pick up the issue of business strategy I looked at the definition of strategic management in Wikipedia:

“Strategic management is a field that deals with the major intended and emergent initiatives taken by general managers on behalf of owners, involving utilization of resources, to enhance the performance of firms in their external environments.[1] It entails specifying the organization’s mission, vision and objectives, developing policies and plans, often in terms of projects and programs, which are designed to achieve these objectives, and then allocating resources to implement the policies and plans, projects and programs.  ”

Johnson and Scholes Definition Of Strategy

In Exploring Corporate Strategy, Johnson and Scholes define strategy

“Strategy is the direction and scope of an organisation over the long-term: which achieves advantage for the organisation through its configuration of resources within a challenging environment, to meet the needs of markets and to fulfil stakeholder expectations”.

Kenneth Andrews Strategy Definition

In his book, The Concept of Corporate Strategy, Kenneth Andrews says

“Corporate strategy is the pattern of decisions in a company that determines and reveals its objectives, purposes, or goals, produces the principal policies and plans for achieving those goals, and defines the range of business the company is to pursue, the kind of economic and human organization it is or intends to be, and the nature of the economic and non-economic contribution it intends to make to its shareholders, employees, customers, and communities.” (pp.18-19)

More Definitions Of Strategy Are Needed

I’ll add to this blog as I find more definitions of strategy but you can help me too by leaving a comment.

How do you define strategy?

Or do you know of a definition of strategy which you find powerful and convincing?

While I believe strategy is important, the more I think about it, the more it seems strange that there aren’t popular definitions for strategy.

Paul Simister is a business strategy coach who helps business owners to differentiate their businesses and develop winning strategies. Get your free copy of my ebook The Six Steps Profit Formula.

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