Strategic thinking has been at the top of my mind lately. It is something that is often ignored, yet of crucial importance. We can often be so busy executing to forget to ask the critical questions that can drive us to reconsider our course of action.
Or, we get stuck in the creation of strategy, and never move forwards at all.
And this is where it is important to know the difference between a strategy and a plan.
A strategy is a general approach to achieving a goal or set of goals, while a plan is a specific, actionable set of steps for achieving a specific goal.
Think of a strategy as a high-level blueprint for achieving something, and a plan as the detailed instructions for actually making it happen. For example, a company’s overall business strategy might be to dominate a particular market, while a specific plan to achieve that goal might be to release a new product or enter into a strategic partnership.
Another way to think about it is that a strategy is the what and why of achieving a goal, while a plan is the how.
Let’s take an example from World War II.
During World War II, the Soviet Union employed a “scorched earth” strategy, which entailed ceding ground and causing heavy losses to the invading German army, while keeping the flow of material from the Allies. The idea behind this strategy was to slow the German advance and wear down their forces, even if this meant significant losses on the Soviet side. The strategy recognized the imbalance in population numbers between the two nations, and how the Soviet Union could more easily afford to replace casualties than Germany.
One example of this strategy in action was the Battle of Stalingrad, in which the Soviet Union allowed the German army to advance deep into the city before launching a counteroffensive that encircled and trapped the German 6th army. This battle destroyed a significant portion of the German army and marked a turning point in the war on the Eastern front.
Another example was the battle of Kursk. The Soviets knew that the Germans would use Panzers as main unit, so the soviets decided to create a massive defensive line before the battle; this allowed them to dig deep trenches and prepare anti-tank weapons, which nullified the advantage of the German tanks. This battle caused heavy losses on the German side and was considered one of the biggest tank battles in history and a major Soviet victory.
Another example of how the strategy of keeping enemy losses high, regardless of the manpower cost on the Soviet side, is in the production of the T34 tank. This is an interesting example of how strategy can be all-pervasive; this was not just about battlefield tactics but also created structured decision-making in the design and manufacturing of weapon systems.
The Soviet Union also employed a strategy of mass-producing cheap and easy-to-produce tanks, particularly the T-34, during World War II. This strategy was driven by the Soviet Union’s need to quickly and efficiently equip its military with large numbers of tanks to counter the superior equipment of the German army.
The T-34 was designed to be relatively simple and inexpensive to produce, with a simple and sturdy design that was easy to manufacture. This was in contrast to the more complex and expensive tanks Germany and other powers produced. The T-34 had sloped armour which made it a harder target to hit. The tank also had a good combination of speed, firepower and protection.
Additionally, the T-34’s large production numbers and relatively low cost made it possible for the Soviet Union to replace any lost tanks in battle quickly. This allowed them to maintain a numerical advantage over the German army, and its design was an important contributing factor in the Soviet Union’s ultimate victory on the Eastern front.
The T-34 production strategy was a key aspect of the overall Soviet war effort and played a critical role in the Soviet Union’s ability to ultimately defeat the German army.