If we are to talk about strategy is it worth understanding the origins of the word strategy and some of its variations.
The origins of the word strategy lies in Ancient Greece
The origins of the word strategy and its use, comes from the ancient Greek. They used it in three contexts (source wikipedia strategy definition):
- stratēgós, “a general, the leader or commander of an army”.
- stratēgéō, “to be a general, command an army”,
- stratḗgēma, “the act of a general, a piece of generalship”
Over the years, our meaning and interpretation of strategy has derived from these original sources.
The idea of Strategy is not uniquely Greek
Please do not assume that, simply because our word derives from Ancient Greek, that the idea of strategy come also from Ancient Greek. The idea was around with the Romans, and the Ancient Chinese. I suspect the Ancient Egyptians had the concept as well. It has travelled through military history and much of our thinking about strategy derived from its military context (See the language of strategy: a military perspective)
Let’s be ‘Strategic’ and talk ‘strategically’
The word strategy is a noun. It is the name of a class of a thing, item or concept, or a class of things or concepts. We might refer to a strategy, or the strategy, (a specific strategy).
Associated with the word strategy, are two closely related words: Strategic and strategically. How do we use the words strategic and strategically?
Strategic is an adjective. It attaches to a noun to qualify and describe the noun better. for example I have a cat. I have a blue cat. Blue in this case is an adjective that describes an attribute of the cat (being blue). (I do not have a blue cat by the way – in case you were wondering). Likewise, we might have an objective. Therefore an objective described as strategic, a ‘strategic objective’, should be an one associated with the strategy in some way. (However the world of strategic objectives is dangerous – see strategic objectives are not strategy)
Strategically is an adverb. It modifies a verb. for example, I run. I quickly run. (Quickly is the adverb). So if strategically is associated with a verb, it suggests that any action is done in a “Strategic way”. For instance, To choose. To strategically choose. or To bid for a contract. To strategically bid for a contract. The latter two sentences suggest that the choosing or bidding is done in specific way consistent with a strategy that exists.
What is a stratagem?
Stratagem is an interesting variation of the word strategy with the same origins. A stratagem is a piece of deception (see wikipedia).
For instance, during the second world war, the Allies tried to convince the German forced that the invasion of northern Europe would be at Calais, not Normandy. They employed various ways of convincing the Germans that that was where the real invasion was to be. They were so successful that the German reserves were held back even after the Allies landed on the Normandy beaches. The stratagem had worked, the Germans were deceived, some extra time was won, and the Normandy landings were eventually successful.
Of course not all strategies involve deception.