What is Strategy

In the ever-evolving landscape of professional development, I’ve noticed that the term “strategy” is frequently thrown around, often without a clear understanding of its true meaning. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding often leads to the formulation of ineffective strategies, a topic explored by Richard Rumelt in his book Good Strategy/Bad Strategy.

In that ancient conflict, Hannibal faced a Roman army much larger than his own.

So, how did he emerge victorious?
What crucial lessons can we draw from Hannibal’s strategic brilliance?
Now, why does this historical tale matter to you and me in the modern professional landscape?

In today’s short episode, I delve into the intricacies of strategy, shedding light on common misconceptions and providing valuable insights. Strategy is not just a buzzword; it’s crucial for individuals and organizations alike. It provides a decision framework, guiding actions, aligning efforts, and paving the way for success.

Join me while I break down the lessons using these key elements:

  1. The pitfalls of bad strategy
  2. The elements of a good strategy
    • Clear Diagnosis
    • Guiding Principles
    • Tactical Plan
  3. Strategic insights beyond the battlefield
  4. Looking forward to strategic growth

In a world where strategy is often misunderstood, this episode serves as a valuable resource for unraveling the true essence of strategy. Empowered by insights from historical examples and a comprehensive approach, you can develop and implement effective strategies in their professional and personal journeys.

For those seeking a deeper dive into the realm of strategy, an upcoming workshop in Frankfurt offers an opportunity to establish personal strategies for success.

Click this for more details about the Strategy Workshop

As I look forward to providing more content in the coming year, you can anticipate a wealth of insights and guidance to navigate the strategic landscape.

Share this with your friends and colleagues who can benefit from this!


What is strategy

Alexander: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Effective Statistician Podcast, the weekly podcast with Alexander Schacht and Benjamin Piske designed to help you reach your potential, lead great science, and serve patients without becoming overwhelmed by work. And today we have another short episode, a Friday episode. And yes, we are getting to more than once a week and I hope that we get set to a very consistent kind of rhythm next year.

Actually for next year I plan on much more content to be provided to you for free. So stay tuned for this. Today, I want to talk about strategy and strategy is the buzzword that you see everywhere, even in the titles. Yeah, there’s the strategic planner and the strategic writer and the strategic whatsoever.

And we have strategic [00:01:00] development plans and strategic publication plans. And we have strategy advisors and all kinds of different things. But what is actually strategy? And to better understand strategy, we need to go back a little bit in time. Actually, let’s go back More than 2, 000 years ago. At that time, there was a war in what’s now Italy.

And a famous guy called Hannibal was invading Italy, which was at the time the Roman Empire, or the early parts of the Roman Empire, and was, moving through Italy, devastating things. And then, one day, at Cannae, the big Roman army faced [00:02:00] Hannibal and the big Roman army was actually much bigger than the army by Hannibal.

But Hannibal was much more capable in terms of strategy. So he faced this problem that there is a much bigger army on the other side. And usually that means The bigger army wins. However, he was understanding a couple of different things about the Romans and how they will behave. So, he basically designed a trap for them.

That they would go into. And with which trap and with kind of this designed strategy, he could nullify the advantages of having more [00:03:00] people. So what did he do? So when these two armies faced each other, he positioned his army in such a way that it would be kind of like an arc. pointing towards the Roman army and so the middle part of the army would be closest to the Roman army.

And when then the two armies hit on each other he had instructed this middle part to actually retreat. And, because he knew, whenever the Romans will see someone is retreating, they will go all in, in that direction. And of course, this is what happened. All the Romans were seeing are in the middle. There is [00:04:00] the army by Hannibal breaking down, at least they thought it’s breaking down.

Let’s go all in and they moved all in. At the same time, the, the sides of the, Army by Hannibal were moving to the front and also the um, the cavalry was defeating the Roman cavalry and then attacking from the back, which was also a completely new thing. And by doing this, they pulled all the Roman army together into such a dense field that the middle part of the Roman army couldn’t move anymore. And they had completely built a circle.

And so because most of [00:05:00] the Roman army was basically sitting in the middle, they couldn’t do anything. And that nullified their advantage of being many more. In the end, it was an absolute catastrophe for the Roman army. A large part of the Roman elite was killed. Most of Italy was then occupied. by Hannibal.

And so that was really, really catastrophic learning for the Romans. But the Romans then learned strategy from Hannibal. It’s a hard way, of course, but they learned it. Now, what we can learn from Hannibal and what can we learn from strategy and for military and maybe you don’t want to learn from military because that is bad.

[00:06:00] Unfortunately, we as humans have invested a lot of time and thinking and unfortunately also lives in that, but let’s at least learn from that area because these are the first big organizations that we had as humans, unfortunately, but well, that’s the case. A strategy helps an organization or an individual to have aligned, cohesive action over time and through that create an advantage and to win.

Why is that so important? Well, the first thing is, if you run an organization, a team, or maybe just yourself, you want to make sure that all the actions that you have is aligned and goes into the same direction, and actually helps each other. Yeah, that there’s synergies here. That is the [00:07:00] point of working together.

Yeah, to create synergies. However, you can only exploit them if there’s a strategy behind it. If people understand the strategy and can act accordingly. A strategy. is kind of a decision framework. It helps everybody working alongside the strategy to make aligned decisions, to know what to do, to know where to go, to know what opportunity to pursue and what opportunity not to pursue.

In the case of Hannibal, everybody in his army knew What to do when to fight back when to retreat when to attack where to attack and what to do They also knew what to expect and so that helped them work on Over time and space [00:08:00] in an aligned way. It also helps if, for example, there’s new opportunities.

Do I go for this opportunity? Do I, I don’t know, run after these, some Romans that are fleeing? No! Stay with the main army. What do I do once I have defeated the Roman cavalry? Well, attack from the back. All these kind of different things were really, really important to understand. So, there’s a couple of different things about a strategy.

And the kernel of a strategy has always three things in it. The first thing… set a good strategy, always have is a clear diagnosis in terms of what’s actually going on here. It helps you to have a deep understanding of the overall situation. And imagine you’re thinking [00:09:00] about your personal strategy or your group strategy.

Have an understanding of What is the value that you’re generating? What are your competitive advantages? And if you think there’s no competition, well, there is. You maybe are not even aware about it. And so, that is also part of it. The other thing is, what’s going around you? What are trends that you can capitalize on all these kind of different things.

That means you have a good diagnosis of the problem. Of course, it also includes. Where do you want to actually go to? What is your objective? What does winning look like? The second thing is some guiding principles. In terms of Hannibal Well, the guiding principle was we want [00:10:00] to push all the Roman army in the middle So we can completely put them into a ring within our army and then defeat them That was the overall strategy.

Now you can have other strategies. Let’s say you, for example, think like there’s a specific strength that you have. So you go all in on that strength and maximize that strength because that will maximize your competitive advantage. Maybe there’s something that you do that nobody else is doing. Like running a lot of trainings.

Like being really good in R programming. Like Whatever. It needs to be something that helps you drive better performance than anybody else. These are kind of guiding principles. [00:11:00] The last thing that you need is a tactical plan. What will you actually do along these guiding principles to reach your goal? I very often talk about strategy for personal growth and I very often talk about four pillars you can work alongside.

The first is have good leadership skills. The second is be innovative. The third thing is having knowledge about the area you’re working in and the forces Be excellent in what you do. Now, you can use these, for example, as kind of pillars and alongside define your guiding principles and develop your tactical plan to achieve that.

So, strategy. is a way to win. And you can see that not [00:12:00] only in military, but you can see that also in the business again and again and again. A strategy helps you to design a competitive advantage. It helps you to do something that is very, very hard to replicate by others. So, for example, another thing could be, let’s think about Apple.

What is Apple’s strategy? Well, it’s surely not to compete on price. It’s about competing on the brand, to build a brand that people would love to buy from. It is about having this closed system where everything is controlled by Apple, where through that they can make sure that all the interfaces always work, the user experience is really good, this kind of all the apps that are created in there, [00:13:00] they have a strategy of always being open.

innovative at the forefront. They don’t have a second mover kind of strategy. A couple of these things are really, really hard to replicate. For example, Apple’s brand. So what are things for you that are very unique to you, that only you can do? How can you provide Value that nobody else can do? In which playfield do you choose to compete?

This is a decision. These are, this is another aspect of strategy. It is a design. You can influence it. You can choose where to play, how to play, all these kind of different things. There are no rules other than, you know, Compliance and legal [00:14:00] and things like this, but these are very, very, very broad things.

These are not really constraints. How can you leverage and get more resources? One of the ways to get more resources is to, for example, become better in terms of influencing leadership. For me, one of my strategic pillars Is my podcast is everything that I do to provide more content, because that helps me to be more visible, to be of more service that helps me to attract people that want to work with me, that Have already trust in me because they listen to my podcast and does this give me an Competitive advantage, of course it does because most of the people are either feared to start a podcast Oh, they don’t [00:15:00] say things.

They don’t have the time or the ideas or whatsoever there’s very often a lot of inertia in the things going around, and that gives, for example, people that act, that move forward, that try, that have the courage to do something, a competitive advantage. So, think about Strategy in a different way in the future.

Just don’t think about strategy like, ah, we need to have a grand vision, or we just need to have bold goals, or things like that. That’s not strategy. Maybe these are certain components of a bigger strategy, but that is not strategy. There’s a lot of bad strategy out there and it’s surprising how few companies and even less individuals have a personal strategy. [00:16:00]

Now if you are running your team, if you’re running an organization, maybe if you’re even running your own company, I have something for you. Middle of December, I’m creating a workshop or I’m running a workshop in Frankfurt to help you establish your strategy to help you understand how you, your team, your organization, your company can win and what is needed for this.

It’s a three-day workshop, and it’s actually my first face to face workshop that I’m completely organizing on my own and if you’re interested in that, just Send me a message on LinkedIn or write me a message via my newsletter, any of these kind of things. Contact me and then we can have a discussion about whether you’re the right person [00:17:00] for that and what are the details around it.

So, stay tuned for more episodes in the coming year and for more of these short episodes on a Friday.

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