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There was a question on a LinkedIn forum recently – “What is a good strategy?”  Many have taken that to mean, “What is a good business strategy?” – but I want to widen this, to be a behavioural view of strategy…

A view of strategy as behavioural

If you take a much wider view of the word, strategy, you are looking at a persistent pattern of behaviour. Now in organisations this manifests itself in a market or internally, in recruitment, in developing core competencies, and frequently gets interpreted as focus or uniqueness (by those fans of Porter et al.

But think “behaviour” for a moment, please. How many of you have strategies (persistent patterns of behaviour) for sales, networking, engagements, finding your way to a new place, greeting your loved one, choosing food at lunch time, following linkedin…. These are all strategies in the behavioural sense. You use them because they work…. they are your strategies…

I believe a good (behavioural) strategy has two characteristics:

1) It is a persistent (implicit or explicit) pattern of behaviour that delivers results.

2) It is flexible enough that it can be refined when the pattern of behaviour no longer produces the results that it used to (If you always do what you always did, then you always get what you always got).

A behavioural strategy is about persistency

Now the first is about persistency and delivery. Over time a learnt behaviour is repeated BECAUSE it delivers results. Also notice that sometimes it is implicit rather than explicit. Many personal strategies that are very effective are actually unclear to the person using them (Note how often people say “I JUST do it” -. Unconscious competence. This is an area that the modelling aspects of NLP can provide particular insights into, amongst other techniques.

By the way, a “bad” strategy can be behaviour that is persistent but that leads to “bad results”. A little used pattern of behaviour is merely a tactic.

A behavioural strategy gathering feedback

The second is about gathering feedback, sitting in a second or third position and recognising that the pattern is no longer working (or will stop working. For this read Chris Argyris (Double loop learning ) or Gregory Bateson (Levels of learning in “Towards an ecology of mind”).

It is this second aspect that requires a connection to the external world and an understanding of if and how it is changing (as many have observed).

Now I would generalise that most of the comments on this discussion would fall into one of these two categories. Some of the techniques that have been listed are merely that – techniques that that help you apply these two aspects of a good strategy. (I am been controversial here)

There is a third aspect…. behavioural adoption

3) How well is that strategy adopted by others (implicitly and explicitly)

This is about socialising your strategy (much deeper than merely communicating a strategy) so others understand and internalise it, as well, learn it and adopt it. We are now into the realm of social memes, learnt behaviour and how societies and groups operate. Again I have generalised quite a lot deliberately to widen the discussion. A strategy (pattern of behaviour) can get adopted as a successful strategy for results or survival (for instance – to survive around here you need keep your head down and don’t ask the boss questions…)

So a long post, sorry but three deep characteristics of a good strategy (be that behavioural or organisational)

1) It is a persistent (implicit or explicit) pattern of behaviour that delivers results. (Persistence and delivery)

2) It is flexible enough that it can be refined when the pattern of behaviour no longer produces the results that it used to. (Awareness and learning/adaption)

3) How well is that strategy adopted by others (implicitly and explicitly). (Socialised and learnt effectively)

Phew….got that off my chest…

Phil