Opinion

Why the concept of business "strategy" has had its day

4 min read

02 September 2015

Elinor Hull, associate director at LOC Consulting, puts forward her case for dropping the outdated term "strategy" in favour of a more relevant, and useful, approach – bringing together the right language and action to underscore intentions.

Who wants to be the same as the next guy? We pride ourselves on our individuality as people – and the same naturally goes for our businesses. So if we’re not cut from the same mould, why do we so often line ourselves up as such? 

As we all know, the key to successful business is difference. And sounding different is as important as thinking and acting that way. 

Let’s run through some of the buzzwords of business – “innovative”, “responsible”, “track record”. More than familiar, no doubt. So familiar in fact, that LinkedIn recently called them “worthless” and recommended users delete them from their profiles

It’s an interesting phenomenon to experiment with – the more you hear, see or say these words, the more they lose their power. The basis or justification underpinning them gets lost in the monotony of the syllabic sounds. Now try the same with “strategy”. Feels a little watered down, doesn’t it? That’s because the combined force of strategy plus business has been diluted by ill-use; overuse has rendered strategy in business meaningless.

Clearly, all small and medium-sized businesses need to have some form of strategy. But too often strategies are less actionable plans for delivering business success than company visions, tactics, KPIs or goals wrapped up and branded as such (these are, in fact, the components of a business plan). 

What they need is to consider real business case objectives and convey how they will be met. These elements of a viable, deployable strategy are especially important for engaging stakeholders. Pulled into a weak version of a company’s strategy which fails to make clear planned decisions and deliverables risks alienating or leaving stakeholders cold. 

Read more about strategy:

With the word lacking its former gravitas, it’s time to take up a new description of strategy. “Advisory” is relevant, straightforward and all-encompassing, referring to the decisions and investments (both internal and external) that will drive a business forward. Whilst it may, on first sight, not appear the obvious successor to strategy, the strength of advisory is in its focus on delivery. 

SMEs with an advisory mandate think – how are we going to transform the business challenges into measurable plans of action? What are the phases of work and what is the roadmap for delivering each? For entrepreneurs or SMEs, having clarity on the distinction between advisory and strategy is key to standing out and keeping stakeholders happy.

Let’s face it – many of us have the same business goals of growth, impact and relevance. But how we treat them can separate those of us who soar from those who flounder in a sea of concepts. The application of great ideas is where the magic lies. So watch out for the trap of imagined concepts and think instead about the powerful coupling of the right language and action to underscore your intentions – instead of undermining them.

What’s your opinion on the notion of “strategy”? Please let us know in the comment box below.