The most strategic business people I know, don’t know anything about strategy. At least in terms of knowing about formal strategy theories and frameworks.
They just do strategy: they watch and listen to everything going on in their market, think a lot about how to do things better, where their next opportunity is coming from, what the risks are and how to avoid them, how to take their business to the next level. They are humble about their achievements and respectful of the expertise of others who might know something they don’t. They tend to operate by a few ‘simple rules’ of business and work with a few trusted people.
They don’t do strategy but they have good strategies. Are they missing anything? Can everyone be like them and avoid the need for formal strategy?
The answer is probably yes: we should all focus on being more strategic rather than learning more strategic frameworks. Let’s face it, formal strategy raises more questions than it answers: there is no consensus on the best way of doing it, even on the effectiveness of its simplest tools. After decades of academic research and billions of dollars of consultancy spending, there are still regular debates about ‘what is strategy’ and the rights and wrongs of different approaches.
What a waste of time! Guys, get over it, strategy is just a language game, there is no metaphysical ‘thing’ that is strategy, and most of what passes for strategy is corporate managers and staff churning out investor relations materials.
By contrast, being strategic isn’t difficult and results improve the more you do it. Being strategic involves questioning, being curious about alternatives and innovations, cultivating playful competitiveness and imagination; trying things out, spending personal and financial capital on stretching your understanding and taking a position. You can do it on your own every day, and you can practice it with your team. We guarantee you will have a lot more fun and become a lot more strategic than you would by reading the next strategy textbook.