How to Evaluate Any Strategy

We encounter the word ‘strategy’ too many times a day. How do you evaluate one?

I lived in London for a year. In my between my Bayswater apartment and Selfridges department store was a cathedral that had been bombed out during WWII. It had been renovated in a way that visually commemorated a time when the people were drenched in fear. To allay that fear, ‘management’ offered these words:

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender

These are perfectly crafted words. More than that – they form a strategy. In fact, they perfectly fit the definition of strategy I work with.

  1. A set of ideas 
  2. that inspire
  3. a move to 
  4. a position of advantage
  5. over a long period of time

Can you find each of these qualities in the Winston Churchill speech above? 

The military maneuverings – the decoy invasion days before D-Day, for example. That was tactics.

The strategy was the threat of never-ending guerilla warfare in London and other British cities. And the threat of Britain’s only military strength – it’s navy and air force. All the British positions of advantage were invoked. 

By the way, the audience of Churchill’s speech wasn’t the enemy – it was his people. Just as Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s writings are largely aimed at his own people, to inspire them and also clarify strategy. 

Take action. The next time someone puts a ______ strategy in front of you – a digital strategy, a marketing strategy, a content strategy, a brand strategy. Whatever they call it. The next time you see the word, ask yourself if it meets these 5 requirements.

You might have to do some homework to get your answer.

For example, what is a position of advantage, for your business? If someone offers a content strategy, which usually takes the concrete form of an editorial calendar, ask yourself: what position of advantage does it capitalize on? Do you even have a strong air force?

And my favorite strategy qualifier – does it inspire you to do the work? By which I mean, does it prick your professional pride, your high standards as entrepreneur, a craftsperson, a consultant, or however you define yourself?

If a strategy doesn’t inspire you and your people to charge ahead, bin it.