What is strategy?

Published on March 30, 2023   17 min
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My name is Andrew Ward. I'm a professor at Lehigh University and this talk is titled: "What is Strategy?".
I'm often asked the question, what is strategy? Strategy, at its essence, is the continuous pursuit of competitive advantage. Another talk in this series will deal with exactly what we mean by competitive advantage. But at the moment, let's just think of it as the things that lead the firm to engaging in profitable transactions with the customer and beating other competitive firms to that transaction.
When we think of the things that the firm can do to beat its competition, to engage in profitable transactions with its customers, strategy is, in essence, an intention. It's an intention of what does the organization intend to do and how does it intend to do it. But in constantly pursuing competitive advantage, it means that this intention is continuously subject to changes based on the dynamic competitive environment in which the firm finds itself. It's a bit like, if you've ever been in a job interview, and been asked the question, where do you see yourself in 10 years? Now, you can give an answer to that question but whatever you answer, the chances of actually being precisely in that position in 10 years are quite remote or unlikely. But what the interviewer is actually asking you is what is your intention and how do you think about how that intention could be achieved, and the type of things that you are going to do to pursue that intention. The same is true in strategy. A firm has an intention of what it's going to do, how it's going to pursue its mission or its intention. But in the end, there's lots of things that might change between now and say, 10 years from now, when that intention might be realized.