In Defense of Strategy

I didn’t realize that there’s a strategy backlash going on in some corners of the internet, but Packy McCormick has a good defense of the importance of having a good strategy:

Execution without strategy is wasteful and tragic. Just as “Companies that have the best products, most talented people, and fastest growth are precisely the ones for which moats are most important,” companies that are the best at execution are precisely the ones for which strategy is most important. They’re the only ones that have a shot. The better you are at execution, the faster you can run in any direction. A good strategy helps you run fast in the right direction.

He also provides a good summary definition of what strategy is, based on the (must-read!) book Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters:

A strategy is a high-level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty, designed through recognizing the challenge (diagnosis), setting a direction to overcome it (guiding policy), and detailing steps to implement the policy (coherent actions).

The biggest problem I’ve seen in organizations that struggle with good strategy is that everyone wants a strategy but it’s very hard to figure out how to get started with its creation. It is such a lofty, nebulous concept, and everyone has a different idea of how to go about it. So it’s really important to define what it is and what it’s for, and get broad agreement on that, before starting to create a strategy. To put it another way, make sure you define the black hole words.

For more on this, check out my (very long) case study on Collaborative Product Strategy Development.