The three strategies of the classic world

After many journeys to distant lands as a kind of modern day Ulysses, after wandering far and wide, back and forth over the seas, I finally arrived safely to the mythical port of Ithaca—Barcino, in my story.

In my voyages over the years I have come to know scores of projects and their strategies from many different lands. I have loved them, nourished them, warred with them, and even left many of them to travel their own journeys with new maps and cunning.

As I reflect back on the types of strategies I have seen used throughout the world by entrepreneurs, organizations, and businesses, I see clearly that they can be categorized into three classic groups that I will briefly describe below.

In honor of my own journey’s end at the ancient Roman port, today known as Barcelona, I thought it appropriate to coin names for these strategies that still thrive with good health in our modern times. Thus was born: strategius spiritum, strategius erraticum and strategius precisum. 

Many are the voyagers such as I and perhaps you, who at some time, in some place, in some project, have participated in them all.

Strategius spiritum

This type of strategy, used in projects of all sizes, is characterized by the ‘invisible presence’ of a strategy, one that cannot be seen, but whose existence is sometimes felt and even summoned.

Project leaders and managers who embrace this strategy are often heard saying things such as, “Yes, that’s a great idea, I’ll think about that”, or “We don’t have time for a meeting—things will work themselves out”, or “There is not anything I can do, it’s out of my hands”, “There is no need to overcomplicate”, and “This is the way we’ve always done it”.

This type of strategy  is always ‘with us’ but never clearly manifests itself—often left to the power of faith. And when an objective is met or a moment of success is achieved, is it welcomed and received as a miracle. A wondrous miracle.

As are the projects guided by strategius spiritum.

Strategius erraticum

This type of strategy is often fraught with a great deal of activity and busying about. Real objectives can be accomplished, though usually taking the team and management by utter surprise.

Project leaders and managers who embrace this strategy are commonly seen entering and exiting rooms, sitting down and then standing up again, making a phone call, receiving a phone call, checking data, rushing off again to fix something or do something or to meet with someone. This strategy conjures up lively images of a Marx Brothers’ film, where Groucho, Harpo and Chico are very busy and very engaged in all of the things and people around them, having a delightful, chaotic and energetic time.

Yet, at the end of the movie, not much has changed in the plot since the beginning, though everyone is quite exhausted, and perhaps a bit confused.

As are the projects guided by strategius erraticum.

Strategius precisum

This type of strategy is characterized by its planning, clarity and creativity. Project leaders, directors and managers who embrace this strategy are often heard saying, “See you at the strategy meeting after lunch”, “Before we launch this product on digital platforms, I want to make sure the content is clear”, or “We need to know how our audience feels about this before we continue”, or “Is this new idea in line with our mission?” and “I know we are pressed for time, but we mustn’t jump over any steps in this process, it will be worth it in the end”.

This type of strategy demands concentrated work; it requires discipline, thinking and analysis. Sometimes the process is strengthened with outside help.

The people who are responsible for the development of a strategy within a project, business or organization all understand one key concept: goals are met, connections with audience are made, and it is easier to adapt to new events only after the strategies are mapped and executed. They also know that success is a joy to behold.

As are projects guided by strategius precisum.

So, my fellow voyagers, warriors and entrepreneurs, as you think about the type of strategy that you currently employ, I will leave you with a fragment of the epic poem, the Odyssey:

“… And many were the men whose towns he saw and whose mind he learnt, yea, and many the woes he suffered in his heart on the deep, striving to win his own life and the return of his company. For through the blindness of their own hearts they perished, fools, who devoured the oxen of Helios Hyperion…”*

There are two important messages here—mixing Homer with the musings from this blog.

One: No matter what your project is, or what its journey has been, a strategius precisum is always possible to strive for and embrace.

Two: It is best not to eat a Greek god’s ox.

*From the first book of the Odyssey translated by Lord Grimthorpe.

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