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What is the opposite of strategy?

Last week I was working with a couple of Leadership Teams on their strategy, a question popped into my head…

What is the opposite of strategy?

I posted it on LinkedIn and it quickly generated 50 answers. You can see them here.

The responses got me thinking…about what is strategy and why is it difficult?

Maybe they will get you thinking too.

Three themes

The responses clustered into 3 themes.

Cluster one said the opposite of strategy is randomness, gut feel, just doing things, chaos, luck or fate.

Cluster two said the opposite of strategy is short-sightedness, myopia, reactivity, improvisation, being impulsive, tactics.

Cluster three said the opposite of strategy is indecision, failure to sacrifice, isolated decisions, no decisions.

And a bonus: the legendary Paul Matthews shared this article about how companies can and should succeed without any strategy at all.

One definition

In the spirit of “your enemy’s enemies are your friends”, let’s define strategy according to the opposite of its opposites.

The opposite of strategy is gut feel, disconnected, reactive, indecision.

So strategy is a series of deliberate, connected and proactive decisions.

(One useful model to spell out the key connected decisions comes from Playing to Win: you just need to make these 5 decisions: What’s our winning aspiration? Where will we compete? How will we win? What do we need to be good at? What systems do we need?)

Strategy is hard choices

Even if you agree on a definition, it doesn’t make it easy to make these decisions and choices.

Because the word ‘decision’ comes from the Greek word meaning to cut off.

To cut off your options.

Which is the opposite of ‘keeping your options open’.

And right now, in a world of uncertainty, keeping your options open seems like, well, it seems like a pretty good strategy.

Can you make the hard decisions, and keep your options open?

Strategy used to be an annual process of predicting the future, laying out plans, and then largely ignoring them.

These days, the approach I recommend is to refresh your strategy every 90 days; focusing on making the hard choices you need to make now

AND keep your longer-term options open by playing some bets – some investment – in new customers, markets, products or trends.

Be deliberate.

Be connected.

Be proactive.

Be decisive.

And keep your options open!

Rob Pyne


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