Goals vs Strategy

Chess pieces


I was reading Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt, and he talks about the difference between goals and strategy. The two get mixed up all the time.

What strategy isn’t

Anecdotally he says the most common response to ‘what is your strategy’ would be something along the lines of:

  1. Pick an ambitious target.
  2. Work hard to get there.

Lets imagine you’re playing a strategic game like chess. Imagine you turned up to a tournament and that was your strategy. In that context it’s totally meaningless. The strategy doesn’t say anything about how you will win.

What strategy is

Strategy is all about having a plan to achieve some goal. Famous military commanders didn’t just tell their soldiers to work hard. They made the most of the strengths of everything at their disposal, while mitigating the weaknesses.

Next time you hear the word ‘strategy’, unless it has a concrete goal, with steps to get there, it’s just wishful thinking and not real strategy.

This presentation covers the same points as the book, and is worth a watch.