What’s a Strategy? The word ‘strategy’ scares most people
It sounds like hiding a sort of complicated procedures and methods ordinary people cannot grasp.
Many years ago when I first heard it I felt the same. It sounds tangled, but it is unbelievably simple.
Any concept or idea we don’t know about looks complicated. But once explained, is starts to be very simple.
The same happens with ‘strategy’.
If you want a very simple explanation, strategy is knowing very well why we do what we’re doing.
In other words, having a strategy means to work for a clear goal following a plan that makes sense for us.
Everyone of us have strategies. And everything we do is part of a strategy.
Let’s take an example.
Some close friends are coming to us tonight and I want to make a chocolate cake for them.
So, here’s my goal: make a cake for my friends.
Why should I want to do this? Simple: I haven’t seen them for months and I want to make them a surprise (knowing that it is their favorite cake!)
Now, how am I going to do this?
I have to accomplish a few steps:
1. gather all the ingredients
2. assemble the ingredients and prepare the composition
3. bake the cake
4. arrange the cake to be served
I know very well what I’m doing and I know very well why I’m doing each action I take (read carefully the recipe, take the sugar and the chocolate from the cupboard, the eggs from the refrigerator, take all the dishes I need, bring the mixer, crack the eggs, mix them with sugar and on and on…)
Now, let’s imagine another scenario:
My mother in law comes to us and decide to bake a cake for us asking me to help her. She doesn’t tell me the recipe. She just ask me to do some actions without explaining me why are they necessary.
She asks me to crack the eggs without mentioning if I have to separate whites from yolks (so I need to ask…), then she asks me to bring some baking paper without saying how big it should be (I need to ask her again…, etc.
Can you just imagine how I feel and how annoying these tasks are for me?
And it’s normal. As long as I don’t understand exactly what am I supposed to do and why, and what cake my mother in law wanted to prepare, I am confused. I do everything mechanical, and my strategy is to do everything possible to reach the goal of not upsetting my mother in law.
If she would have been told me what exactly she intended to back and explained me how was she going to do it, it would have been simpler for me. I would have done my best to help her as efficiently as possible and save her a lot of effort. (Fortunately my mother in law doesn’t cook anything in our kitchen!)
We can go further and take another example.
Let’s think about how an employee spends her time at work.
Most employees accomplish the tasks listed in their job descriptions or required by their superiors without questioning why are they supposed to do them or what is their role in the organization they are part of. They are not interested in the meaning of their activity. They just want to keep their jobs.
Immersed in their daily routine, they don’t even think about where all the activities they’re doing daily will bring them in a few months or years.
Their goal is to cash in their monthly checks and to comply to their obligations. And their strategy is to put to their employer’s disposal a certain amount of their time (about 40 hours a week).
A soldier too has a strategy. Even if he doesn’t know what and why his superior’s goal is, the soldier executes the corporal’s orders. Executing the orders without questioning is his strategy and his goal is to not have problems.
Even when we want to be lazy we’re having a strategy! We want to avoid doing some chores and we find a lot of excuses and explanations of why it would be better to not do them and find ways to simulate that we’re doing other ‘important’ things. Our goal is relaxing and indulging in doing nothing without annoying other people.
Understanding what a strategy is and how we’re employing strategies in our daily lives helps us in realizing how we can settle and reach meaningful goals in our lives.
It is not at all difficult to apply a strategy in accomplishing a goal.
What we have to do is to clarify what are our most meaningful and important goals (what we want to achieve and why) and then figuring out how we could reach them.
That’s exactly what strategic living means.