Strategy…

…is a loaded, multivalent, term.

My definition: “the process of making explicit resource allocation decisions.” Alternatively, and more actively: “Goal-oriented resource allocation decisions.”

But it’s often used, dismissively, as the opposite of what I call the “acticals”: practical and tactical.

It’s often used as a synonym for ‘planning’ (“we need a lunch strategy, guys.”)

Henry Mintzberg, one of my only business theory heroes, distinguishes between ‘deliberate’ or ‘intended’ strategy and ’emergent’ strategy; the latter is a pattern of decisions that emerge, like slime molds or cities or the open source movement. I’ve argued in the past that this is really the only valid approach, based on Mintzberg’s arguments, but there are many others.

Mintzberg discusses this distinction (between intended and emergent strategy) in The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning but elaborates on the idea in Strategy Safari, which lays out a whole taxonomy of approaches to strategy.

I was working with Larry Bennigson when Strategy Safari came out and he provided a blurb for it.  I remember thinking at the time, “what an idiotic title; I’m never going to read that book.”  But, really, Strategy Safari is a great book and is probably the final word on the uses of the word and the value of the various approaches. The final word at least for our times.