One of the outcomes of developing a viable strategy is defining goals. Without having clearly defined goals and carefully chosen tactics that support those goals, you obviously won’t be able to gauge your progress and make adjustments to your strategic plan. That being said, I’ve seen too many people confuse strategy with goal setting. They are not the same thing and it’s important to understand the difference between the two.
Strategy is an exercise in problem solving. While the problem may be as varied as the development of your platform, the launching of your book, the way you will gain market share or the way you will differentiate yourself and your content in the market place, these are all problems that a well thought out strategy is focused on solving.
Goals that support the strategy are critical, but goals do not solve problems. Goals are a measure of progress. Goals support the strategy.
When a potential client tells me what their current strategy is, what I often hear is a list of activities, a description of various tactics, and a summary of how they are progressing against their goals. My response is typically something along the lines of, “What problems in the marketplace are you and your work uniquely qualified to solve and why do you believe that to be so?” Then I will ask them again to tell me what the strategy is, and if it can’t be articulated clearly and concisely we both quickly realize that there probably isn’t one in place. Activity is activity – not a strategy.
For example, if the problem is getting the body of work out to a broader audience, several strategies can be designed depending on the unique strengths of the thought leader and his or her organization. They may choose to license their content to others, to build a training company, a consulting firm or a tools-based company, or they may choose to partner with other authors or organizations.
For each of these strategies a set of specific goals can and should be created to measure the progress and make the necessary tweaks, but the strategy of partnering or licensing is a way to solve the problem of getting the work out to a broader audience. The goal of researching a list of potential partners is just one of many tasks that need to be accomplished and support the strategy.
So, what’s the point you may ask? Fair question. The point is to have a strategy that has the best chance of solving your specific problem, have goals that are aligned to it, and to not confuse the two as they serve very different purposes.