When is a business strategy not a strategy? When it's a plan.
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The newsletter is back! After a summer break, Season 3 of the Designers in Business newsletter is up and running.

Each season I’ve experimented with this newsletter’s format and content. For Season 3, expect more frequent, shorter issues.

I’ve also got more episodes of the
interview series in the works, so keep an eye out for those or subscribe to the DiB YouTube channel to hear about them first.

Thanks again for subscribing - please
get in touch if you have any feedback on Season 3 :)

Tom Prior
Curator of Designers in Business

twitter.com/designersxbiz  |  
[email protected]

Issue 017

Strategy ≠ Planning

How a common misnomer can sidetrack design's grasp of business strategy
I’ve lost count of the number of business strategy explainers I’ve shared through this newsletter.

Is there a more ambiguous, misunderstood and often intimidating aspect of business for designers to try and get our heads around?

Just as we're grasping strategy, things can become muddled again when our business counterparts unknowingly misuse the term. A common culprit is the concept of Strategic Planning, an activity whose name combines terms that are conceptually poles apart.

It’s easy to see how this happens. The best strategies usually embrace a high element of risk. Grand strategies are big bets; they outline why and how an organisation will tap into a fresh market, create a new customer segment, and potentially play to win in a unique competitive arena.

Promising, well-formed business strategy can make managers and executives nervous.

Plans? They're comforting and controllable.

Any business implementing a strategy will ultimately need to take tactical steps to achieve it, and those actions usually benefit from a plan. But combining the terms strategy and planning can create the impression that great strategy consists of a to-do list we can take comfort from and control.
Screenshot from a Harvard Business Review video interview with Roger Martin.
One of the best explanations of why strategic planning is such a misleading term recently popped into my Twitter feed via Scott Colfer. In under 10 minutes, this Harvard Business Review video features Roger Martin (former dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto) unpicking the key differences between strategy and planning.

Roger uses a fantastic air travel example of Blue Ocean Strategy to explain how the bravery involved in a game-changing strategy is far removed from the comforting guide rails of a controllable plan.

If you enjoy this explainer, I recommend checking out more of Harvard Business Review’s content. It’s easy to assume that an established publication like HBR might specialise in impenetrable, hefty business content. The truth is, the HBR team produce some of the most accessible content around.

Their team also cover topics you might not expect, such as Design Thinking, ethics, climate and diversity. If you discover a piece of HBR content you think DiB subscribers would enjoy, drop me a line. I’ll give you a mention in the newsletter if I go on to share it.
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