What is strategy? This question has sparked many definitions and a fair amount controversy. I hold the notion that there is not one correct definition of strategy and in fact strategy can be defined different ways for different situations.
B.H. Liddell Hart the military strategist and author defined strategy as:
“The art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy”(1)
Michael Porter describes strategy as:
“A combination of the ends (goals) for which the firm is striving and the means (policies) by which it is seeking to get there”(2)
Here is John Boyd’s definition of strategy once again:
“A mental tapestry of changing intentions for harmonizing and focusing our efforts as a basis for realizing some aim or purpose in an unfolding and often unforeseen world of many bewildering events and many contending interests.”
Porter elaborates on his definition of strategy:
Competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value. Strategy is about competitive position, about differentiating yourself in the eyes of the customer, about adding value through a mix of activities different from those used by competitors.
Another way to think about strategy is as the enabler between ends and means. The ends represent the objective. The means includes enterprise resources, competencies, etc. In order for strategy to perform this enabling function it needs to be effective, comprehensible and executable. Devising a winning strategy is only the first step, it is then necessary to convert the strategy into tactical action that faithfully supports the strategy.
(1) Strategy. The Classic Book of Military Strategy. B.H. Liddell Hart. Meridian. New York. 1991
(2) Porter, Michael E. Competitive Strategy: New York: The Free Press, 1980.