The most abused word in business


Is strategy.  From the ancient Greek “στρατηγία”, strategy means literally the art to conduct an army.

Every organisation at a certain point comes out with a statement about where they want to be in a given number of years. Examples of brilliant strategies from the internet:

  • become No. 1 in this market;
  • maintain market leadership in this sector;
  • grow our brand in core categories;
  • deliver better services at reduced costs;
  • become more efficient in manufacturing this product;
  • develop our distribution channels;
  • expanding our geographic footprint.

I am afraid these are not strategies at all. These are wishes. In the best case, objectives. The point is HOW to fulfil the objectives.

According to a classic distinction between strategy and tactics, strategy is the art of setting and achieving long-term goals during the game while tactics concentrate on immediate actions. Now, strategy is definitely associated with long-term planning, but it cannot be reduced to long-term planning or long-term goal setting.

My preference for the definition of strategy, in business and any other context, is very close to Michael Porter’s from Harvard and it has to do with distinction.

A company must define a distinctive value proposition that it will stand for, even if that means forgoing certain opportunities. Without it, it is impossible for companies to develop unique skills assets or build strong reputations with customers“. (Michael Porter, 1996).

So this would be my proposed definition for strategy:

  • the art of achieving long-term goals by implementing a set of coordinated actions which differentiate the player from what its competitors do.


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