“In business as on the battlefield, the object of strategy is to bring about the conditions most favorable to one’s own side, judging precisely the right moment to attack or withdraw, and always assessing the limits of compromise correctly. Besides the habit of analysis, what marks the mind of the strategist is an intellectual elasticity or flexibility that enables him to come up with realistic responses to changing situations, not simply to discriminate with great precision among different shades of gray.”
This quote was written by Kenichi Ohmae, a director at McKinsey & Company, in his book, The Mind of the Strategist published in 1982. There are a lot of books about strategy in business, but this quote pretty much sums up strategy’s essence: making judgments on what to do, and when to do it. These judgments, when strategic, are made realistically. They are never “knee-jerk” reactions to situations. That’s why Ohmae weaves in the concept of “intellectual flexibility.” If you are going to do strategy, you have to open your mind; you can’t think like you have before.
This is difficult. We carry impressions and perceptions that have in many cases been burned into our psyches. Over the years, these impressions become part of the way we think, and we do not think that they could have come from outside, they seem so much part of us. But the strategist wipes his blackboard clean. The strategist in business looks over the problem, and starts the journey of finding a solution by testing different approaches. It requires discipline.
In your business, you face problems each and every day. How you respond to these problems should be based on your overall business strategy. In other words, when the problem arises, your strategy should guide your response. The problem is many businesses do not have a strategy. Large or small, simply read the newspapers and you will find most strategy is absent. Crain’s Chicago Business on August 15, 2011 had this glaring headline: “Business hunkers down: Executives ‘scared to death.’” If you are following a strategy, you are not scared to death. Instead of believing as the article wrote that “uncertainty translates into caution,” you believe “uncertainty translates into opportunity.” Strategy is the essence of achieving the sole goal of your business: making a profit.