The Abuse of Strategy

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I admire President Obama for declaring that he didn’t have a strategy. Although not a natural supporter of Obama’s policies, I believe that he understands and respects strategy. This is important because strategy really matters, and often makes a difference in a fundamental way. If leaders get the strategy wrong, it triggers weakness and often a cancerous state of decay.

From my own vantage, as an expert in delivering strategy, I have seen enormous abuse of strategy. Also with a keen interest in twentieth century history, I have seen political leaders and their military make grave errors of strategy. Strategic errors in wars are often catastrophic.

Too many leaders regard strategy as about planning alone. They ignore execution and delivery. Delivery of an effective strategy often leads to winning or losing, whether it’s military, political or in business.

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

When Bush and Blair made the military case to invade Iraq, they did not have an effective strategy. The generals were focused on winning militarily but it seems that nobody focused on the exit strategy and the full consequences. In contrast, President Obama has an excellent command of English and he understands that strategy has many dimensions.

My second example is the absence of an effective of an effective energy strategy in Europe. The European Commission (EC) publishes papers with the “strategy” word but for me this is abuse. The bureaucrats at the European Commission are frequently biased, often consumed with a passion to address green issues and regulatory matters; But the EC  has failed to identify the consequences of no effective energy strategy. Of course, the real blame rests with the political leaders – they are often too focused on short-term political gain.

I shall return with further thoughts on strategy…