Most strategies are — pardon my language! — bullshit.

Last week I joined the Adobe EMEA Think Tank for our first session and we discussed digital strategy. After the panel, audience members gave positive feedback on how I explained strategies that work. I do think that there’s a lot of bullshit going around in this space. But it shouldn’t be so difficult.

It’s worth a blog post, I think.

A Strategy’s Purpose

Most businesses have competitors. A strategy should tell you how to face off with these competitors in the marketplace and come out on top. A marketing strategy should tell you how to market your products and services better than your competitors. A PR strategy should outline clearly how you expect to establish and maintain better relationships with key publics compared to your competitors.

Since strategy is such an over-used and inflated term, I think it’s fair to put it as simply as possible:

A strategy is how you win. Nothing more, nothing less.

How to win is what any strategy should tell you. The why, where, when, how and what are important questions to answer, but you can save them for the plan. Yes, lots of people tend to talk about strategies when they mean plans — and vice versa.

How to Write a One-Page Strategy

My inspiration for writing no-bullshit strategies comes from the classic Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt. This is how I set up strategies that fit on one page — using the classic battle between David and Goliath as an analogy:

1. Analysis

  • David realises that he can never beat Goliath using his size or raw strength, but he also understood that he himself had an advantage in speed as well as accuracy from a distance.

2. Guiding Principle

  • David decided to not engage in close combat, but rather use tools that would allow him to strike from a distance.

3. Coherent Actions

  • David didn’t use any heavy armour because that would contradict his strategy.
  • David decided to use a slingshot, a weapon he was familiar with and served his strategic purpose of fighting from a distance.
  • No-one had ever fought Goliath from a distance before, so he leveraged the element of surprise.

The above can easily fit on one page. The carry-out details could be outlined in the plan, which comes later.

How to write a one-page strategy that will help you win.

Photo by Pascal van de Vendel on Unsplash.

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Catarina Wigén
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Catarina Wigén

Well written and exemplary clear! Battling the inflation in the concept of “strategy” and getting rid of it being used as a syntethic booster for “tactics” is crucial to all businesses.

Jimmy Mannung
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Jimmy Mannung

I really loved this post. It managed to put words on some of the feelings I’ve had towards how strategies are used in my kind of workplace and that sometimes has me wanting to skip the strategy part altogether, even though that haven’t felt very smart either. Condensed smartness!