Thoughts on Strategy.

Today I had a working session for the five-year strategy of Mäd.

Strategy is an often misunderstood term. It has been used and abused in business, politics, and personal relationships.

Too often, strategy is conflated with goals or objectives. But goals are what you want to achieve; almost an outcome of a strategy or a further definition of a strategy. For businesses, strategy is about choosing how and where you will compete over a given timeframe.

Strategy is about differentiation. It is about creating a unique value proposition that distinguishes you from your competitors. It is also about focus. You cannot be all things to all people. You have to make choices and trade-offs. It’s just as much about what not to do, that what to do.

I like the mental exercise of picturing a situation five year’s from now. It’s difficult enough to imagine a few months ahead in the future, and five years is enough time that things can completely change — often much more than we think is “realistic”.

I’ve been reading Napoleon’s biography, and it is amazing how a junior officer like him could end up as one of the most influential people in history. It is a story of opportunity, talent, and above all, strategy. Hardly anyone would have guessed that a boy from a Corsican background could take over most of Europe and change the world.

Of course, as his fateful march and retreat from Russia — which was then repeated by Hitler more than a century later — teaches us, things can go very wrong and right in the long term. This is why negative visualization is so important. It not only allows us to understand what could go wrong but helps us prepare for the worst case and then be happily surprised when it doesn’t happen.

I am highly interested in how long-term goals relate to shorter-term goals, which, in turn, relate to daily habits and routines. What one-year goals make sense in light of our five-year plan? What steps do we need to take today to achieve our five-year goals? What might get in the way of us achieving those goals?

It is vital to clearly understand where you want to go, but it is just as important to understand where you are starting from. Only then can you develop a realistic and achievable plan from Point A to Point B.

Because a goal is only a destination, fulfilling a goal can only be done daily. You cannot build a brick wall, you can only lay one brick at a time. You cannot bake a cake, you can only measure the ingredients, mix them, and put them in the oven one step at a time.

The same is true of strategy. You cannot achieve a five-year goal with any single action. It requires thousands, probably tens of thousands, of actions in sequence over time. So the goals we set are not as important as one may first assume. They act more like a compass or a set of intentions. What is essential is the habits and routines that we extrapolate from the goals.

The goals give us something to aim for, but habits determine whether or not we get there.

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