Traditionally, a strategy is about ways, means, and ends. In operational planning mode, this means detailing the paths, tools, and outcomes, as in a logic model.
A real strategy provides more than this. It realizes a framework, not just for describing, but also dynamically coordinating ways, means, and ends, and providing guidance when the context of your effort changes-not dictating ways, means, and ends as a result of being somehow able to predict the future. After all, the larger world is always changing, and when it does, if we are faithful to our values and our hopes, we should support our change goals by shifting the relationship between ways, means, and ends.
Dynamic coordination means that you can change anything arising from your strategy at any time if the context changes (which it always will). Operational plans only allow you to tweak a way, a means, or an end, not fundamentally alter their relationships.
I’m going to take you through 2 genuine strategies. These two strategies were actually used in the real world, and they have all the complexity and depth that we should expect from our change strategies, even if the scope of our strategy will probably be much narrower than these. I will discuss one below and then describe the other in the next post.
The Allied Strategy in World War II:
You may have heard the phrase “unconditional surrender” as a description of the Allied strategy against the Axis in WWII. This was not just a slogan to mobilize citizen support. It was a strategy that grew out of the failure of the “negotiated settlement” that had ended WWI. In fact, the belief was that the settlement had led directly to the rise of fascism in Germany, and contributed to the rise of fascism in Japan and Italy.
Unconditional Surrender had profound consequences for both the prosecution of the war and its impact on all the participants. A reasonable guess would be that twice as many people died as would have if negotiation short of unconditional surrender had been a possibility. Ditto for infrastructure destruction, the number of people who acquired life-long disabilities, and the dramatic shrinking of social capacity that occurred in the Axis states. It is unclear whether the Holocaust would have been less humanly destructive, or even more so, had a settlement been allowed in, say, 1943. The industrialization of the US and the Soviet Union were dramatically accelerated by this strategy of Unconditional Surrender, leading directly to the Cold War. The race for nuclear weapons would have been slowed had the war ended in 1943. At the same time, it is possible that Germany would have acquired nuclear weapon technology had the war been foreshortened by a settlement.
My point is that this choice of a strategy has had real, concrete consequences down through post-war history to this day.