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…


Comment: A portrait of Europe’s white working class – – John Gelmini


English: A caricature of Peter Cooper (1791-18...

English: A caricature of Peter Cooper (1791-1883), inventor, industrialist, and philanthropist. Cooper led a successful fight to build a public school system in New York. His most lasting monument is Cooper Union in New York City, his attempt to offer education to the working classes. This caricature plays on Cooper’s name. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Making of the English Working Class

The Making of the English Working Class (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Dr Alf poses a difficult question in that it is probably too late for the UK’s working classes to ever catch up with the requirements of the job market because the skills they now need are not the ones being taught and because the majority of them  perhaps do not “get it” and will not change.

They typically lack additional language skills, or the money to go abroad to live, so they are limited by the UK job market which has 47 people chasing every vacancy and too many of those part-time.

They may also lack the drive of many of the better educated immigrants or the money to buy franchises/set up small SOHO enterprises.

Too often, I fear that they want no risk, the ability to still go on holiday and money on a plate.


Dr Alf wonders what the policymakers ought to do about the working classes but essentially they have already been written off as economically useless, and their roles will be replaced first by better motivated and more efficient immigrants and later these roles will be automated.

Politicians would like to pretend that this is not the case but they are not enforcing anti-ageism legislation, they are not encouraging firms to invest their cash mountains fast enough or at all, and they are not pressuring the banks to lend.

The UK working classes have a proud heritage. Sadly, now the UK working classes are on their own, and have to create their own salvation. Under David Cameron’s government, there are increasing barriers to social mobility but matters were not that much better under the Labour governments of Blair and Brown.

To take the US example, the American Dream is dead – it’s no longer enough to rely on hard work and education to make your way in life.

Unfortunately, once again, we live in a world where the super-rich, the privileged and the well connected take the cream.


The working classes should be sent to business boot camps at the weekends and during the week if they are unemployed. These boot camps need to be intensive, ”in your face”, energizing and motivating in nature. This is to inculcate the necessary mindset for success and a “can do” attitude.

Local authorities need to be made to reduce in number and get out-of-the-way. This means less red tape, no more massive holdups when it comes to planning permission for businesses just starting up and a sensible approach to parking rather than one that stifles trade.

Proper business mentors, properly paid, not David Cameron’s unpaid ones, should provide coaching and mentoring to get these people into the right mindset and then into business planning mode, as a precursor to doing their own thing.

People like for example Dr Alf or myself  or our peers, could easily help with the coaching.

To be clear, the barriers are the political classes, the bureaucrats and not necessarily the working classes who just need the right encouragement. For those that then “get it”, they will progress; the others, with ossified attitudes, are probably doomed to eke out a miserable existence, grow old and die.

In addition, there should be benefit recycling, faster writing down allowances on plant, machinery and cars and no more business sapping green taxes or attempts to stop fracking or nuclear power. There should be fiscal incentives for the self-employed, for their risk-taking and innovation.

A further measure would be the complete cessation of overseas aid, the stopping of the Barnett Formula and restructuring of the Monarchy with the so-called Crown Lands and assets put into a Temasek style Sovereign Wealth Fund. That fund would modernize our infrastructure in terms of roads, bridges, airports, railway lines, track, signalling and rolling stock. Building these things would create jobs for the working classes and stimulate employment more widely. It would also create tourism style jobs, as the number of foreign tourists rises and those tourists spend longer on each trip.

John Gelmini