– Thoughts on Strategy and Management

Is Strategy the Path or the Objective?

Well, you may be inclined to say both. Henry Mintzberg goes even further with his concept of ‘Four P’s for Strategy’: Path, Perspective (equivalent to objective), Pattern and Ploy.

But let’s stay with the path and the objective. Of course, a strategy can describe your objective, i.e. what you want to achieve, and your path to this objective, i.e. how you are going to do that. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be both. A strategy can determine an intended future position without explicitly describing how this is to be achieved. But it should never consist just of the path (no matter how brilliant analysis and recommended actions are) without giving the objective.

The first option is a typical strategy for a company that goes on by learning and experimenting. The objective serves as some sort of guiding line which helps to determine whether a measure is appropriate or not. You start to take the first step towards your objective, than see where this has led you, how it looks like there, and on that basis you make up your mind about your next step toward your objective.

The second option is more or less doing something in order to do anything at all. If you don’t have a clear picture of what you want to achieve, how will you know if your activities were successful?

Let’s illustrate this at an example. Imagine a company that introduces a new brand and decides to launch a specific website for that brand.

As long as the company has a clear idea what it wants to achieve with this website (e.g. actively create awareness and market the brand to internet savvy customers) it may just start the website without too much of a detailed plan. The company might start with some features (newsletter, online shop) and see how they work. Based on market research, user feedback and their website statistics, they can decide which other features should be added – blogs, discussion boards or whatever is appropriate. Surely, they will continuously work to improve their site in order to keep their visitors exited about the brand.

On the other side, what would happen if the company would launch the website just because everybody has one? They would probably make sure that the website fits their corporate identity, has a neat design, some information and a contact form. They would even invest some advertising funds to market the new site – because that’s what you do when you launch something new. After that, some guy in the IT department gets the responsibility to maintain the site, which he fulfils by making sure that the site is online all the time – and that it is.
See the difference?

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