Balakarthik Venkataramanan
August 14, 2016

ARTICLE: WOW!! You are so cool, you have a Strategy!

An early entrepreneur in social media, Bala is a strategic customer service leader with a track record of customer experience transformations globally. Bala has 2 decades of experience in customer experience strategy & operations for leading brands like Google, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft. Prior to his current role as Director of Global Partner Operations, Intuit, Bala was leading global process & business excellence for Google’s trust & safety vendor operations. You can connect with Bala via Linkedin, view his personal blog here, orfollow him on Twitter @vbkarthik123


Can you think of a question that will never get “NO” as an answer and will get “YES” as the response, every single time? I know of one!

Have you ever tried asking any senior leader in an organization, “Do you have a strategy?”. I bet the answer is“YES”

But, when you start talking about the details, you will get some interesting responses. Every time I have asked that question, I have heard some interesting answers. Some that made me say “Wow” and some that made me giggle. But its unfortunate that the majority struggle to articulate their strategy.

And if you are not able to articulate your strategy, guess what? You don’t have a strategy!

When I think about why people struggle to articulate, it probably leads to the lack of understanding on what “strategy” means and how does it differ from vision, mission and objectives.

At the same time, may be its because everyone is so pressurized to say that they have a strategy when they don’t have one. After all, we have created so much hype about this word, “Strategy”. People feel that it’s kind of cool to say that “I have a strategy” Isn’t it? But why say “Yes” when you don’t have one.

I heard one of my favorite responses a couple of years back, I was at a networking breakfast where I met a senior leader from one of the cell phone manufacturers and we were having a general conversation on organizational roadmap, market share etc. Some one asked this leader, “So, whats your strategy” and his response was “our strategy is to be the best in the world”. Thats awesome, but, is that strategy?? I don’t think so.

And on the contrary, I know of several organizations who hate the word “Strategy”, it’s as if using the word “strategy” is a crime. But, I don’t blame them. It’s probably because of what they have been exposed to as “Strategy. Fancy powerpoint presentations that are called strategy with pretty pictures and graphs and not mean a thing in reality. Oh boy, fancy non-sense powerpoint presentations titled as strategy is indeed a problem and a wide spread one.

I know, this topic has been beaten up quite a few times, i.e. talking about what is strategy. But, I think a constant reinforcement is required to clear the misconception of this word “Strategy” and to avoid confusing pretty powerpoint slides to be “strategy”.

If you do an image search in Google for the word “strategy”, it will show you pictures of the game of chess. Chess has always been tied to strategy from centuries, so let me try and use chess to articulate the difference between vision, mission and strategy.

Say, I am an aspiring chess player and below is what I could have as my vision, mission & strategy. Please don’t take the chess example, literally. Using it just as an example.

There are hundreds of definitions for strategy which leads to more and more confusion. According to me, its super simple.

The Economist published an interesting article on strategy that quoted, “Consultants that compete to give advice to companies cannot even agree on the most basic question:“What is Strategy?”. It’s so true and unfortunately we have made this a fancy word in board rooms for nothing. To me, knowing the “How” of achieving your ultimate vision is strategy, nothing else.

And above all, its your ability to articulate your strategy to your workforce and motivating them to executethe strategy. That’s what is going to transform your organization to what it aspires to be!

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