Is Strategy A Plan?

No. Strategy simply defines what will be achieved once all objectives have been met.


What Is A Strategy?

Strategy is a simple concept that is usually made complex by individuals who are unfamiliar with the stark contrasts that exist between strategy, planning, and their applications. Strategy is inherently flexible, it does not define what will be used to achieve it or how it will be achieved. Strategy leaves it up to the actors to use their skill, knowledge, and tactical ability, in any given situation to achieve strategic objectives by applying all available means.


If your bayonet breaks, strike with the stock; if the stock gives way, hit with your fists; if your fists are hurt, bite with your teeth.

Gen. Mikhail Dragomirov Russian general and military writer 1830-1905

What Is A Plan?

A plan is a step-by-step order of operations with set ingredients that requires an actor to complete each step in order for it to be successful. Plans are extremely successful when applied at the right interval to achieve strategic objectives. Such as when actors must perform routine actions to ensure consistent results. Such as automations, workflows, and processes. Plans should only be used when all outliers have been normalized, and consistent results have been achieved. Plans should be tested, measured and refined as time goes by to ensure the plan is continuing to produce optimal results and aligns with the strategy.

Strategy Defines Intent

Strategy in itself is nothing yet everything at the same time. It can exist on its own with nothing else, but cannot be achieved unless all other actions align with it.

This is what makes strategy so effective when applied correctly. When applied at the top level (before any other action), it ensures all actions, assets, courses, actors, methods, and measurements all work to achieve it, making anything that is not of value to the strategy obvious.

To put it more simply, strategy is why you do WHAT you do, wherein a plan is what you do, how you will do it, and in what order the actions will be performed.

The biggest issue with the idea that strategy is a plan, is that a plan when applied at the top level, adds a tremendous amount of complexity to any endeavor. A plan in essence is putting the cart before the horse. A plan assumes that all knowns are known and that the endeavor will occur step-by-step in a specific order. Unfortunately this is the main reason why most endeavors fail. Plans are rigid and lack the flexibility the actor needs to be successful setting, the actor up for failure, causing the actor to focus all their energy on “making the plan work” and hastening the actors demise.

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.

Mike Tyson Seminole Coconut Creek Casino Fight

With strategy and planning now clearly defined. Strategy when applied by leadership and translated down through the team is one of the most powerful approaches any organization can take. It ensures all efforts are working together, while giving the team the flexibility to use their knowledge and skill to achieve objectives, sets the course, and which assets / means are tactically available.

Leaders who apply strategy will find their job much easier allowing them to concentrate on training and skill building as opposed to management / babysitting. The role of a strategic leader is communication, measuring all actions against the strategy ensuring alignment or determining when to course correct.

The team, when a strategy is applied, will be more agile, more responsive, and more connected to the purpose of the organization, giving their role in the organization more meaning and provide them with a sense of ownership over their role as opposed to simply filling a position.

When used correctly strategy can be a tremendous force for ensuring a flexible organization, agile capable teams, and operational excellence.


The victorious strategist seeks battle after the victory has been won, while he who is destined to defeat fights first and seeks victory afterwards.

Sun Tzu Roots of Strategy

Let’s Sum It Up

What is Strategy?
Strategy defines intent, sets the course for all activities, and is inherently flexible.

What is a Plan?
A plan is a set of steps that must be performed in order of operation to be successful. A plan is structured and inherently rigid.

Why is it Important to Know the Difference?
Understanding the difference between strategy and planning will give you the ability to properly structure your organization.

Astor is a pioneer of the modern Web. As a young executive, at 23 she developed one of the first interactive Web applications connecting business, data, and media via the World Wide Web. Astor owns an eclectic portfolio of innovative brands that include technology, data, media, and e-commerce including her first which she founded in 2003. Astor is author of the IEDP a development methodology she employs to rapidly deploy modular applications. To date Astor has developed 2 platforms and over 200 modular apps.

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