Is it Possible to Have a Perfect Strategy?

Perfect StrategyThat was the question posed in a recent forum. It’s an interesting question and deserved a response. With the benefit of hindsight, I’ve edited and embellished my answer:

“Yes” there is a perfect strategy in the sense that you could design a strategy for a given moment in time that effectively addresses the core competitive challenge.

As I covered in previous posts, strategy is a word for which many well-meaning people have opinions.  Strategy is not goal setting and it is not the steps to a goal.

Because the word strategy is ambiguous, I define strategy as a crafted, designed response to a specific and important challenge. The core challenge is unique to each situation. As the cliché goes, a problem well-defined is a problem half solved. Strategy changes over time, as the business changes. For example, Starbucks (at the time of founding) could afford to be experimental in the tweaking of its concept. Nowadays, under competitive pressure, Starbucks must be much more focused in applying its resources. Starbucks has a different strategy now than when it was founded.

A “perfect” strategy is an elegant design that applies your resources in such a way as to give you advantage. Perfection, in this case, means it is entirely adequate for the situation and you would gain little benefit from further tweaking. It is good enough and you gain more benefits from bearing down on execution compared to polishing a presentation deck.

Other commenters said that perfect strategy was “impossible.” I disagreed, writing,

I suspect those who say that there is no perfect strategy are confusing predictability for strategy. I agree that no person can predict what will happen: predictability is apples to the oranges of strategy.

Do you agree? Is a perfect strategy possible? Do people assume that strategy is a prediction of the desired future?

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About Greg Githens

Thought leader who helps others think strategically, make strategy, and turn vision into action. Coach, advisor, board member, and hands-on leader. Seminar leader and speaker of popular offerings "How to Think Strategically & Apply Business Acumen" and "Leading Strategic Initiatives (Program Management)." Experience in driving change in Fortune 500 and mid-size companies through strategic initiatives and business transformation.
This entry was posted in Interpreting Strategy Documents, Strategy, Ambiguity, and Strong-Minded Thinking and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Is it Possible to Have a Perfect Strategy?

  1. Jim Carras says:

    I have been wondering why companies and organizations have developed strategies that addressed everything except creating value for their customers. Wouldn’t it be a perfect strategy if you could optimize adding value for customers with every resource a company had?

    • Greg Githens says:

      Value is an essential underpinning of strategic thought. You’d think it would be commonsense, but most managers really don’t know how their organizations create value. Going even more fundamental, they lack a working definition of value.

  2. Rupert, Martin says:

    Greg,

    Great point. I will use to try and educate my managers as you may well know, the concepts of thinking and strategy do not always match.

    Marty

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