Creating a strategy is one of the most integral functions of operating any business, yet many people often confuse strategy for a plan. Knowing the difference between a strategy and a plan will greatly change how decision makers approach the curation of one, whilst also doing a better job at it.
Writing a strategy
Strategies don’t need to be inventive.
In fact, they are typically generic and known to many. The creativity comes in the form of planning and execution of the tactical plan. Whereas the strategy comes knowing the goals of the business unit and writing the direction that will be taken to achieve that.
In other words, the strategy should answer the approach involved in achieving the objective in a couple of sentences. Any longer and it becomes a description of the strategy.
It must be short, concise and detailed enough that it doesn’t require much more explanation. Some of the greatest strategies in any field from business to military are no more than one sentence or a few words. ‘Product differentiation and innovation’ from Apple and ‘divide and conquer’ by military greats like Napoleon Bonaparte.
Management and leaders shouldn’t have to go into detail to explain what the strategy is.
To write strategy it’s important to understand where it fits within the whole plan. Starting with the goal and completed with the execution of a tactical plan:
Goal – where we are going?
Every business/unit has a goal that needs to be achieved, such as increased profits, revenue, market share, unit acquisitions, product awareness, etc. It’s the targets that we’re aiming for.
Strategy – how we are getting there?
This is where we consider the competition and external factors like the market and environment. History of the business and its strengths and resources a strategy focuses on the direction to achieve the above goals. For example, to increase the unit acquisitions, it may be best to take on the competition – a ‘head-on strategy’.
Tactic – what are we doing to get there?
Now we gather with our team and create a plan which decides the course of action or activities.
A ‘head on strategy’ could look like an ad campaign which makes a direct comparison to its competition, utilises aggressive sales tactics on the competition’s territory and develops better value propositions on the product/service.
Writing a strategic plan requires involvement from a team that can bring ideas together which can be seamlessly executed.
But the strategy must be carefully thought out and all activity must align with its intentions. Every strategy must have a strong foundation which adheres to a typical SWOT analysis.
What you need to write a strategy
If you’re unable to confidently have this information on hand, then you are not ready to create a strategy yet!
Mistakes to avoid
Strategy is not:
For example marketing has its goals and strategy, which contains a tactical plan that will involve advertising channels and mediums. Whereas IT and tech might have a data and information strategy that will involve analytics, collection and processing of data.
Whether it’s an in-house team, an agency or contractors, it’s up to the manager/leader to be able to communicate the strategy to the team for a tactical plan. A standard plan of action will include schedules, tools, channels or mediums and resources. Workshop this with your team or request a proposal to come up with a comprehensive plan that is measurable against the overall goals.