Rotman Management

The Big Lies of Strategy

THOSE WHO KNOW ME WELL know that I have a love/hate relationship with all things strategic. On the one hand, I hate ‘strategic planning’ and traditional strategic plans; but on the other, I absolutely love strategy. At heart, I’m a ‘strategy guy’, but the practices involved in strategic planning leave me cold — and the reason is, the typical strategic plan isn’t terribly useful.

Most strategic plans have three sections. The first is some lofty vision or mission statement, and the middle section tends to be a list of initiatives: ‘Here are a bunch of things we’re going to do’. Sometimes that’s good, because it is action-orientated, but if you look at most strategic plans — at least the ones I’ve seen — you can almost see how the list of initiatives came to be. There is a little bit in there for marketing and a little bit for manufacturing and a little bit for finance; it is basically a list of compromises that were made by a bunch of people sitting around a table saying, ‘We want to do this’, and ‘We want to do that’. Then lastly,

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