In his book, Good Strategy Bad Strategy, Richard Rumelt made the point that many people mistake goals for strategy and “many bad strategies are just statements of desire rather than plans for overcoming obstacles.” Setting a goal is the easy part. Solving how best to achieve it is the hardest part. He argued “The kernel of a strategy contains three elements:
1. A diagnosis that defines or explains the nature of the challenge. A good diagnosis simplifies the often overwhelming complexity of reality by identifying certain aspects of the situation as critical.
2. A guiding policy for dealing with the challenge. This is an overall approach chosen to cope with or overcome the obstacles identified in the diagnosis.
3. A set of coherent actions that are designed to carry out the guiding policy. These are steps that are coordinated with one another to work together in accomplishing the guiding policy.”
Together these three elements allow you to apply strength against weakness or apply strength to the most promising opportunity and this is the essence of strategy.
Rumelt's idea of good strategy is an essential part of progress. There is a common pattern. Progress is defined in terms of the goal, so the first thing to do is agree on the purpose or destination. Next, you need to understand the environment of the goal. What problems you might encounter, ideas for overcoming them, and your resources. Having decided what ideas will best help you achieve your purpose, next you plan to apply them with the available resources. Finally, you measure performance and how well you are progressing towards your goal. Good strategy drives progress.