What Does Bad Strategy Look Like?

Every business purports to have a strategy, but not every strategy is good. A post at Consultants Mind combines the established literature with personal experience to create a picture of what bad strategy looks like. And in fact, bad strategy can take multiple forms.

Headed for Oblivion

According to McKinsey, bad strategy can (1) fail to face problems, (2) mistake goal-setting as a strategy, (3) lay out bad strategic objectives, and/or (4) be utter fluff. A strategy that tries to improve everything will probably improve nothing, and conversely, a strategy that tries to optimize the status quo will do nothing to future-proof the business. Additionally, if strategy is vague and filled with obvious best practices masquerading as strategy, then it is a clear indication no one knows what they are doing.

Here are some additional ways that leaders attempt to set strategy—and consequently completely miss the point. They are pulled from A.G. Lafely and Roger L. Martin’s Playing to Win:

  • They define strategy as vision – bad
  • They define strategy as a plan – bad
  • They deny that long-term (or even medium-term) strategy is possible – bad
  • They define strategy as the optimization of the status quo – bad
  • They define strategy as following best practices – bad

The author estimates that 20 percent of the work he does in his consulting consists of just undoing the bad strategies that his clients currently have in place. So if you are not completely confident in the strategy you have going right now, maybe you should pause and decide what exactly is causing that apprehension. The answers could be costly.

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