• James Walton

A Simple Way to Think about Strategy

Early on in my tenure in business school, I developed the disturbing habit of using corporate jargon in everyday language. I said things like, "Core Competency", "Bleeding Edge" and "Boil the Ocean" without a trace of irony.

"No one talks like that, stop it," my wife instructed with a tone that was more than a suggestion but less than an ultimatum.

One especially common word I misused? Strategic. In undisciplined hands, it can become an adjective modifying almost any noun, signifying nothing.

Strategic leadership

Strategic partnership

Strategic communication

Looking for a cheap way to sound smarter? Pick a noun, add strategic, and call it a day.

Not so fast. Strategy is important, even though it suffers from being pressed into action in places it doesn't belong.

Strategy is simply how you plan to achieve your goal.*

A goal is what you're planning to achieve. That's the target. Strategy is how you'll get there. That's the plan.

It's the clause that follows the word by in a sentence.

We'll acquire 5 new customers this month (goal)


making 10 cold calls a day, starting a paid advertising campaign on Google search, and offering a referral bonus to our existing customers (strategy).

As a leader, fight hard in your organization to communicate your goal and articulate exactly how your strategy, if executed, will accomplish the goal.


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