The goal of strategy

The following is from Dan Gray’s blog post about Stephen Bungay’s book The Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gaps between Plans, Actions and Results. Stephen Bungay is a military historian who has examined the nineteenth-century Prussian army. There are some unexpected strategy lessons here. At least for me.

The goal of strategy, according to Stephen Bungay, is to reduce three gaps — those of

  1. knowledge (what we would know in an ideal world vs. what we actually know),
  2. alignment (what we would like people to do vs. what they actually do), and
  3. effects (what we expect our actions to achieve vs. what they actually achieve).

Ultimately, this boils down to:

  1. Deciding what really matters. You can’t create perfect plans, so don’t even try. Formulate strategy as an intent rather than a plan.
  2. Granting people autonomy to act. Recognize the distinction between intent (what we want to achieve and why) and action (what to do about it and how). The more alignment you have around intent, the more autonomy can be granted around action.
  3. Giving people space and support. Don’t try to predict the effects your actions will have, because you can’t. Your actions are subject to the independent wills of multiple agents. Encourage people to observe what is actually happening and adapt their actions accordingly to realize the overall intent.

All this might seem obvious, but is nevertheless worth emphasizing.

Related posts:
Book Review: The Art of Action
Principles for collaborative leadership

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