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Tactics are superficial, strategy is deep

google's master plan

Here’s the question posed on yesterday’s #bizforum chat.

My answer: Because, as always, everyone copies tactics. Not strategy.

Apple’s strategy is unique to them. Their reason for existing is theirs alone. And their tactics are aligned with that strategy. More importantly, their type of leadership, based on principles of excellence and artistic perfection; is laser focused on executing their strategy.

Who else thinks and acts that way? Not many.

Now, some companies will argue that they have copied some of Apple’s tactics successfully. Case in point: Samsung. But they aren’t the only ones. For example, last week I purchased a HP Envy15 laptop. Guess what it looks like? Just like a Macbook Pro. As usual, it has minor tweaks to make it look like an Envy. But the main chassis y Macbook Pro inspired.

Others are thinking that maybe if RIM had copied Apple’s tactics, that they’d be somewhat relevant today. Well that’s just a hypothesis, and the truth is no one will ever know.

We could argue about this for as long as you want. But the bottom line is a strategy needs to be based on purpose. And leaders need to own it. That purpose isn’t born from adopting someone’s superficial tactics. As Richard Rummelt correctly states about good strategy practice:

Good strategy is not just “what” you are trying to do. It is also “why” and “how” you are doing it. … Good strategy requires leaders who are willing and able to say no to a wide variety of actions and interests. Strategy is at least as much about what an organization does not do as it is about what it does.

And “what not to do” is what most can’t copy because they fail to examine the “why”.

Image credit: Steve Jurvetson

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