“Divide the fire, and you will the sooner put it out” (Publilius Syrus).
STRATEGY MEANS FINDING THE WISEST WAY TO DO WHAT WE WANT TO DO. When a sports coach has a game to win, he carefully considers his game plan, and we’re foolish if we don’t think about ours.
Admittedly, strategy can sometimes seem a little shady. If a person has no higher goal in his or her relationships than using good strategy, that’s a person we would probably want to stay away from. The conniving, scheming individual who is always calculating and plotting his next selfish move is hardly a person we admire.
We may as well face it: strategy without character does more harm than it does good. General Norman Schwarzkopf once said, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.” That sounds like an extreme statement, but I believe it’s true. I’d much rather deal with someone who has good character but little common sense than someone who knows a lot about strategy but has no conscience. Nobody is more dangerous than the “strategic” person who has no principles.
But strategy can be both balanced and principled, and when it is, we ought to value it. When we don’t, we often defeat ourselves. For example, think about this observation from the Book of Ecclesiastes: “If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength.” The wood-chopper who has no time to waste on things like sharpening the ax blade will have to work much harder than the fellow who first gives a little thought to strategy.
Strategy has to do with expediency. It thinks not only about what is to be done but how it may be done in the wisest way. It considers ways and means, pondering the possible consequences of reaching the goal by different paths. Strategy can’t tell us much about the worthiness of the goal itself (our conscience will have to tell us that), but once the goal is determined, strategy can get us there more wisely.
Strategy is necessary because brute force is not enough to take us where we want to go. When an obstacle confronts us, a battering ram is not always going to remove it. So as inconvenient as it is, we have to stop and think: Here is our goal. Now what is our plan for getting there?
“To win by strategy is no less the role of a general than to win by arms” (Julius Caesar).