Strategy is a Game of Clue

I’ve never read or helped create a strategic plan that really seemed like a plan to execute a strategy. Mostly, they seemed to consist of some uncontroversial goals or objectives which appeared specific relative to the even vaguer mission statement. They just seemed like a supplication to the gods of bureaucracy…

But in my new job, I’ve sworn that this time I will get it right. We will have clear goals designed to achieve specific objectives. We will be able to assess our success and we will take risks. Our plan will define who we are and our priorities and in so doing will make some people happy and others not at all. This is what definitions do: they tell you yes, it is, or no, it’s not.

To that end, here’s my new most favorite article on strategy: HBR April 2008. The authors emphasize crafting a succinct statement: you’re going to do what with what and over which domain: Professor Plum in the conservatory with the candlestick.

13 Responses to “Strategy is a Game of Clue”

  1. cebola said:

    Jun 23, 08 at 6:06 pm


  2. Kyle said:

    Jun 24, 08 at 7:28 am

    What a bold plan you have. Let me know how that works out. ‘-)

    The challenge at my school is that the strategic plan does not account for the financial realities of the school. The plan is full of strategic objectives and growth for the school, and every year none of the strategic objectives get any funding. It’s not that people don’t *want* to fund them, it’s just that there isn’t new money and nobody wants to make any trade-offs. I’m starting to think the IT strategic plan is going to boil down to, “live within your means.”

    I just have to come up with some flowery language to disguise it. I was thinking about “rightsizing expectations to match resource allocation.” ‘-)

  3. admin said:

    Jun 24, 08 at 5:51 pm

    No flowery language! My favorite comment that I heard recently from the university’s budget manager is: “We did not deny your request, we just didn’t fund it.”

  4. rufusb said:

    Jun 25, 08 at 5:48 am

    My school has a strategic plan, but nothing in it points directly to IT in my department. No one has ever communicated to me exactly what I’m supposed to do. The language is general, vague and overly hopeful. Who writes this crap?!?!

    Anyway, that article articulated what I have been saying about my school for years: We have no plan and no real governance. Therefore, nothing will ever happen the way anyone expects it to and as a consequence we will be perpetually disappointed.

  5. admin said:

    Jun 25, 08 at 4:51 pm

    Rufus, maybe you could figure out how to work this to your advantage? (don’t hit me, I’m just trying to look on the bright side).

  6. rufusb said:

    Jun 26, 08 at 9:45 am


    I would never hit you and I think you are correct: I do indeed use this to my advantage. It allows me to create my own strategic plan. The problem is how do I get the credit for my brilliance?

  7. admin said:

    Jun 26, 08 at 7:37 pm

    Rufus, this the problem with IT. Expecting credit for your brilliance is like expecting a goat to comment on the beautiful sunset. Unless, of course, you can translate your brilliance into dollar$ $aved or wonderful new tools, lack of complaints, etc.

  8. g-lo said:

    Jun 27, 08 at 5:47 am

    the failure os most “strategic plans” I’ve seen is a result of the “planners” stopping at goals/objectives. A lack of defined tactics that support a particular strategy accounts for a lot of wasted time.

    Of course, tactics is where the work gets done, the money gets spent, someone wins and someone loses. So it’s easier, politically to just write the first page of what might be a fifty page document (if you want to get into process flows, org charts, gantt charts/ooda loops whatever).

    The full plan probably has more than one strategic objective, as well. I think I’ll need that candlestick…

  9. rufusb said:

    Jun 27, 08 at 7:32 am

    Admin, goats bleat occasionally, but one can never be sure if it’s the tin can you just gave them that produced the bleat or the beautiful sunset. And…hey! are you comparing my employer to a goat!?!? How dare you?! They’re more like an overweight mountain gorilla with male pattern baldness (and lots of money).

  10. steele403 said:

    Jun 30, 08 at 10:03 am

    Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast – Ford Motor Company.

    This is a real game of Clue.

    “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu.

  11. admin said:

    Jun 30, 08 at 5:16 pm

    Thank you, Steele403, for making me laugh and cry almost simultaneously. If culture eats strategy for breakfast than I’m going to have to pull out the Red Queen and accomplish 6 impossible things before breakfast.

  12. g-lo said:

    Aug 14, 08 at 4:35 pm

    damn. Got pwned by steele 403. sorry for the double quote of the master.

    That said admin. Time to grow.

  13. admin said:

    Aug 15, 08 at 7:59 am

    The master is worth double quoting.

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