The mystery of strategy
In the business world, an aura of mystery surrounds the term “strategy.” Those who are initiated and masters in the art of strategy are the real successful ones. They can turn businesses around and create results seemingly magically. And those who stumble around in ignorance of the power of strategy will either remain mediocre or, most likely, fail.
Especially trainers, coaches, and consultants enjoy throwing around this magic word in order to shock and awe everybody who wouldn’t dare to use it. They talk about ancient texts such as Sun Tzu’s Art of War and Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings containing the hidden secrets. At the same time, they claim to be authorities on how to interpret these texts.
The “wise” strategy consultants show their expertise through complicated charts, talking about levels, sectors, and dimensions. They give you symbols, abbreviations, charts, and diagrams they have developed (or found like artifacts and gems). You have to study and work hard in order to grasp their meaning and then act accordingly. Some of them write entire books on the concept of presenting such a “simple” figure and using the remaining five hundred pages to explain it.
The vastness of strategy
The purpose of this blog article is not to define strategy and explain its meaning and implications (or to give you another chart for that matter). However, my intention is to give you an impulse to become a strategist; not because you can’t make it unless you are one, but because there is scientific and measurable leverage in approaching (business) situations strategically.
To understand the broadness of the subject, think about a ship drifting on sea. Without a destination it has no direction to go to. Even with a destination, without knowing where it is, there is no course it can lay onto because going in one direction may mean ending up farther away. Now let’s make this scenario more complex. Let’s say, the ship does not only want to end up at a destination, it wants to be the fastest (or most profitable) in comparison with other ships. As you think about additional conditions and aspects like weather, wind, possible stops, cargo onboard, crew… you easily get overwhelmed by the vastness of options, implications, and decisions.
The biggest advantage of strategic planning
Here are five big questions you can ask and really dig into in order for you and your business to set the right course. The “small” questions underneath each Big Question are designed to make you think. Don’t make this exercise a mental one and take notes, write your answers down and work it. It’ll be worth it!
Big Question #1: Where do I want to be?
What is your vision? What is your desired lifestyle? What role takes your business in your life? What do you want your business to do for you? Where do you want to see yourself in 10 years/5 years/1 year/6 months/30 days/next week? If money was irrelevant, how do you want to spend your time? List 101 goals you want to accomplish in your life!
Big Question #2: Where am I now?
What resources and assets do you possess (tangible and intangible like talents, abilities, skills, positive attributes)? What are strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and risks in your business, in your industry, in your life? What do you fear most? Are you satisfied with where you are? If not, why not? What is keeping you from what you want? What relationships do you have, what people do you know? What can they offer that is of value to you/to others? What can you offer to serve and to provide value for them/for others? Who am I? What is my opinion of me? This is where you take self-inventory!
Big Question #3: What can I change?
What is in your control? What could you do in order to come closer to your vision? Considering everything you do/everything your company does, can you eliminate, delegate, reduce, add, modify, enhance processes/habits/routines to perform better, to become closer to your vision?
Big Question #4: What do I need?
In order to fulfill your vision, what resources, skills, abilities, and knowledge do you need? Who can provide it? What do you want to learn, what do you want others to do for you? Are there any role models, books, seminars, trainings, coaches you can benefit from? What is it you don’t know that you think you need? What do you believe is necessary to accomplish your vision?
Big Question #5: How can I move forward while having fun?
Life shouldn’t be a chore, it’s supposed to be fun and joyous. Why else would you want to be successful in the first place? What action step can you think of that is exciting to you? What have you never done before but you really want to try it? What would the successful Future-You do? Even if the first idea is taking vacation or test-drive a fancy car, write it down and do it – regardless of whether it seems to bring you closer to the fulfillment of your desires or not. Answering this question and following through with what you come up with is critical to your success.
Two daily habits of the strategic thinker
Being a strategist means first and foremost to learn strategic thinking, with emphasis on thinking. Most of your thoughts today are the same you had yesterday. However, not only the thoughts you think in regard to content are habitual, but also how you think is. For example, you come to conclusions the same way, you tend to see risks or problems rather than opportunities and solutions, the way you make decisions,…
In order to become a strategic thinker, you want to do these two things every day:
(1) Find new thoughts. Read articles about subjects you are unfamiliar with and find – one way or another – new perspectives. Try to find fascination in something that is alien to you. Read articles from uplifting, positive, successful people you admire and adopt their perspective. The goal is to shift your daily mix of thoughts from the same old same old to a fresher, more enjoyable, more flexible, and more positive variety. Educate yourself to the person you want to be! (For example, find out different ways of thinking!)
(2) Ask yourself “what do I want now?” As you think of your preference in any given moment you shift your awareness from what you don’t want (from “I don’t like this and I don’t like this) to what you do like and what you do prefer. You begin to become more deliberate in your intention about different moments and segments in your daily life. It may look selfish on the first glance, but remember, you want to make your happiness your priority (check out my other blog posts on that.)
If people hear that someone is acting strategically, they often get an uneasy feeling. They associate with it con artists, deceit, and mischievousness. But now you know better. An essential part of strategy is a creative, joyous, intelligent, and forward-looking utilization of one’s mind.
About the author
Marc Breetzke, M.A., M.A.,
founder of MB Inspirations, is independent trainer, coach, and consultant for communication skills, leadership development, and personal development. Based in Germany, he helps companies, entrepreneurs, managers, executives, and students from all over the world.
He studied among other subjects Strategic Communication, Linguistics, and Cognitive Sciences at top universities in Germany and in the USA.
Marc also teaches Leadership, Strategic Management, and Marketing at various institutions.