Buzzword Bingo Series: What is Strategy?

10/17/2018 buzzword bingo, strategy, digital

In our Buzzword Bingo series, we look at common industry terms and evaluate whther they have any value or if they're just a smoke screen used to say something without saying anything. In this episode, we take a look at Strategy. Strategery. Strategos. Strategem. The word "strategy" is used frequently, but does it actually have any meaning or is it something professionals use to appear smart?

Steve Zobrist, tactical wordsmyth

Steve Zobrist, tactical wordsmyth


  1. The science or art of combining and employing the means of war in planning and directing large military movements and operations.
  2. The use or an instance of using this science or art.
  3. Skillful use of a stratagem.

So we've all been there. A person in a meeting or email or conference call drops the "S" word. Usually leaving everyone else contemplating what that means if anything. 

So is this term actually useful to impart meaning or something we should all just ignore? 

In this case, yes strategy is a word that should have meaning. Unfortunately, it is often used by leadership without any real direction on what it means. 

Simply put, anything that is a strategy should consist of answers to these questions:

    1. What are the goals?
    2. What are the desired quantifiable outcomes of these goals?
    3. How will the success of those outcomes be defined and measured?
    4. How will the value of this success be defined and measured?

Anything that doesn't answer the above isn't a strategy. At best it's a vision or direction in need of a strategy. 

"We want X" is not a strategy. It's not even a goal. It's a vision. It needs detailed refinement to develop a strategy for it. Because if you can define quantifiable outcomes and what success means for them, and ultimately what the value towards your mission is, then you are not being strategic.  

Strategy is not something that should be driven by opinion. It should be based on quantifiable, measurable, and time-based goals. Organizations that ignore this are ultimately headed for trouble. 

So when you or someone else at your organization mentions strategy, be sure to make sure that it is clarified on what it means. Its component parts must be formalized, or the only strategy you're talking about is that of failure.