Teams need a shared language for effective communication and mutual understanding within an organization.

As a practitioner, one of the challenge is that clients have different definitions of strategy. The impact is that executives will tend to have a different view of the strategy process and on what's important in the nature of the organization success.

Dewitt Reddick, a University of Texas journalism professor, says that a good definition contains a good definition contains at least two of three basic elements.

  1. A reference to the larger class of things to which the defined object belongs
  2. An explanation of how the thing defined differs from other members of the larger class
  3. An illustration

Using these rules, I have compiled a list of strategy definitions from various sources.

Definition Year Author Source
A strategy is the general direction in which an objective is to be sought. 1978 William R. King and David I. Cleland Strategic Planning and Policy
Strategy is a major organizational plan for action to reach a major organizational objective. 1989 James M. Higgins and Julian W. Vincze Strategic Management, Text and Cases
Strategy is a coherent, unifying and integrative pattern of decisions; determines and reveals the organizational purpose in terms of long-term objectives, action programs and resource allocation priorities; selects the businesses the organization is in or is to be in; attempts to achieve a long-term sustainable advantage in each of its businesses by responding properly to the opportunities and threats in the firm’s environment, and the strengths and weaknesses of the organization; engages all the hierarchical levels of the firm (corporate, business, functional); and defines the nature of the economic and non-economic contributions it intends to make to its stakeholders. 1991 Arnold C. Hax and Nicolas S. Majluf The Strategy Concept & Process, A Pragmatic Approach
Strategy is a plan, or something equivalent—a direction, a guide or course of action into the future, a path to get from here to there, etc. Strategy is also a pattern, that is, consistency in behavior over time. 1994 Henry Mintzberg The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning
Strategy refers to either the plans made, or the actions taken, in an effort to help an organization fulfill its intended purposes. 1996 Alex Miller and Gregory G. Dess Strategic Management
Strategy is the creation of a unique and valuable position, involving a different set of activities … The essence of strategic positioning is to choose activities that are different from rivals’. 1996 Michael E. Porter What Is Strategy?
Every organization operates on a Theory of the Business … Strategy converts this Theory of the Business into performance. Its purpose is to enable an organization to achieve its desired results in an unpredictable environment. For strategy allows an organization to be purposefully opportunistic. 1999 Peter Drucker Management Challenges for the 21st Century
Strategy is a broad articulation of the kinds of products the organization will produce, the basis on which its products will compete with those of its competitors, and the types of resources and capabilities the firm must have or develop to implement the strategy successfully. 2000 Garth Saloner Strategic Management
Strategy is understanding an industry structure and dynamics, determining the organization’s relative position in that industry, and taking action to either change the industry’s structure or the organization’s position to improve organizational results. 2001 Richard W. Oliver What is strategy anyway?
Strategy is the means and methods required to satisfy the conditions necessary to achieving a system's ultimate goal. 2003 H. William Dettmer Strategic Navigation
A good strategy is a set of actions that is credible, coherent and focused on overcoming the biggest hurdle(s) in achieving a particular objective. 2011 Richard Rumelt Good Strategy, Bad Strategy
Strategy is the human attempt to get to desirable ends with available means. 2012 Max McKeown The Strategy Book
There is no agreed-upon definition of strategy that describes the field and limits its boundaries. One common contemporary definition describes it as being about maintaining a balance between ends, ways, and means; about identifying objectives; and about the resources and methods available for meeting such objectives. This balance requires not only finding out how to achieve desired ends but also adjusting ends so that realistic ways can be found to meet them by available means. ...By and large, strategy comes into play where there is actual or potential conflict, when interests collide and forms of resolution are required. This is why a strategy is much more than a plan. A plan supposes a sequence of events that allows one to move with confidence from one state of affairs to another. Strategy is required when others might frustrate one’s plans because they have different and possibly opposing interests and concerns...The inherent unpredictability of human affairs, due to chance events as well as the efforts of opponents and the missteps of friends, provides strategy with its challenge and drama. 2015 Lawrence Freedman Strategy: A History
Basically, a strategy is a set of actions designed to achieve a particular objective. It’s like a route designed to get you from Point A to Point B. 2018 Julie Zhuo How to be Strategic
At its heart, business strategy is all about beating the market, or in other words, defying the power of 'perfect' markets to push economic surplus (profit) back to zero. 2018 Chris Bradley Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick
Every strategy is really just a theory: “We bet if we do x, then y will happen.” X is everything in your direct control—the activities you do. It’s the research, planning, building, selling, recruiting, pitching, etc. Y is everything outside your direct control—the activities other people may (or may not!) do. It’s the noticing, considering, buying, using, joining, investing, etc. The goal of strategy is to devise accurate theories. It’s the art of choosing what to do. (Execution, on the other hand, is when you put theory into practice—actually doing “x”.) 2019 Nathan Baschez Introducing Divinations