Strategy is an overused expression, but when correctly applied, no other word works as well to express the plan. In May 1989 Col. Arthur F Lykke Jr., US Army War College professor and retired colonel, published “Defining Military Strategy”. His paper introduced a three word strategic formula: Ends+Ways+Means. Since then, Ends+Ways+Means has dominated strategic planning at all levels, from military campaigns to boardrooms of corporations. The formula has become a favorite, and is a good starting place for strategizing, as long as you remember to keep your plan flexible. No good strategy can stay etched in stone. Strategy: from campaigns to boardrooms must have room to adapt to new and changing circumstances to succeed.
Though you, as a leader need to develop a strategy, it is important to mention that not everyone on your team their own plan. When each member of the workforce has their own unique plan in mind team members with different plans will collide. Your own strategizing needs to accompany the overall goals of the firm, unit or team. Instead of multiple strategies, you need a limited number of leaders, or a single leader strategizing according to the main end goal.
While it may seem counterintuitive, strategy is a backward concept; execution moves forward. To strategize, you need to start with the end goal, then look backward at the steps (ways) and resources (means) that lead to that goal. Next consider the obstacles in the pathway to your end goal. This approach enables a leader to map out the best way to reach the goal. In short, strategy starts with the ends, determines the ways and the means to achieve the goal. To succeed, strategy allows flexibility to overcome obstacles along the way.
An end is simply your goal or objectives that you are working towards. This could be a single objective or many objectives. When you envision your goal, what is it you want to achieve? It is critical to start here when you plan to create your strategy. Look at it this way: If you don’t know where you’re going, not even Google can map the route you need to take to get there. As a leader, you need to understand the components of the plan so you can achieve the goal of your plan.
How you will reach the primary goal are your ways. What is the main plan you will employ to achieve the objectives? Think of this as the map you follow to achieve the goal, but it is also an action step. When following a map, you sometimes take an alternative street to avoid excessive traffic or construction.
As you follow your plan to your goal, obstacles will occur. That’s when you need to figure an alternative route, sometimes on the spur of the moment, to your goal. The success of the plan, or ways of your strategy is dependent on your ability to flex as obstacles make the original map problematic to follow.
Means are the resources needed to complete your plan and reach the goal. Resources can mean money, but it could also be the tools, equipment or other physical stuff and the skilled people to get the plan done. Strategizing must take into consideration what is on hand and what you need, so your people can complete the plan.
Arthur Lykke Jr’s Famous formula remains a great method of crystalizing your ideas to convert them into action. Strategy: from campaigns to boardrooms, when followed by well-planned action is a formula for achievement.