What The F#@k Is Strategy?

A plan of action — designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim?

John Caswell
Mar 1, 2017 · 8 min read

Nope, a bloody menace — that’s what it is.

I had the privilege of meeting a roomful of inspiring people this week. Passionate people seeking truth — camped out at the bleeding edge of a long-running riddle.

Strategy 2.0 — Relieving Oneself


Some Inconvenient Truths

Below is a list of stuff that adds to the map. We all agreed we needed to rewrite the boundaries of this map. The world needs unconventional wisdom. Creativity has never been more required. Normal people need not apply. It’s ‘normal’ that got us into this mess.

The Certainty Of Uncertainty*

Is there anyone alive that doesn’t get this now?

People told the strategic outcome three to five years out —

  1. Don’t take any notice
  2. Don’t do anything differently as a result of that knowledge
  3. Don’t believe it’s going to happen
  4. Aren’t as interested as the above three would suggest

Err… What The F#@K?

The Elitist Menace Of Strategy

  • It’s designed by people who are too close to the challenge they can’t see it anyway.
  • It’s only partially engaged with by those who really need to be deeply engaged.
  • In many cases, it’s designed inflexibly by those with a partial interest. It can’t deal with uncertainty.

Preparation* As Strategy

“It’s all about being prepared. Strategy is knowing where you aim to go and having the smartest possible defence against a gazillion surprises. Every day…”

We all like to say we’ve anticipated things. While that may be true we most definitely haven’t got everyone in the business knowing what that means.

You know — do they have the tools to do what’s required when it all goes tits up? Do they have the bigger story in their heads? F#@K No

Two Reasons We Need A F#@king Strategy

Let’s assume the vast majority of the enterprise give a shit. They are actively involved and inspired and can be properly communicated with. Let’s assume they are willing collaborators — conspiring to bring about the ambition.

The Only Point Of Strategy 2.0.

  1. Knowing where you want to go — keeping a clear hold on the intention
  2. Knowing how to sort out the choices to get there* — and being able to make the best decisions when everything changes.

Knowing What Priority Means

I don’t know if this is faithful but it works for me — Steve Jobs would ask everyone to list their priorities. He would write them down. He would arrive at a list of ten — from a hundred — then reduce it — to three or if possible one.


Semantics? Nope. Menace

Like many a word — strategy has been f#@ked. It’s been hijacked as something mysterious. It’s been hyped and packaged up beautifully by those with a vested interest — to be bought for an eye-bleedingly rich price. By people who should know better.


Business Models Meets Mental Models

Business Models

OK, we all know this. A business model in a digital age is the entire business — how and why it works, who are those with the needs that the business delivers for, how it looks after it’s resources (including its people) and how it makes money and generates value — so as to be successful. How it works. The machinery. That’s platforms, information (data) tools, techniques, standards, principles, rules and stuff like that. All of it. Especially it’s people.

“In the recent past my sense was that far too many a strategy consulting firm’s business model wasn’t focused on solving the problem but finding more problems to go solve. It may be a valid business model (for some) but these days a more valuable business also needs to transfer the capability to the business and then get out of the way — right?…”

When the strategic challenge is that of preparation and you’re relying on an outsourced intelligence — well that can be very high risk indeed.

Mental Models

If we can actually visualise the business model then we create the culture — the mental model to match. Yes I get that robots are about to take all our jobs* but that’s a whole different conference. This raises the only principle left. Businesses are about shipping value and impact or they can f#@k off. It requires encouraging us (human beings) to want to work to achieve the outcome — to actually give a flying f#@k.

“Any business designed for success in the 2oth century is doomed to failure in the 21st…” — David Rose, The Singularity University


If culture means anything it’s the mentality, attitude and values required for people to care— values that have integrity and authenticity — ‘the way of being’ around here. Culture is that which encourages ownership, involvement — thinking and working — stuff that’s designed to be in place naturally — and thrill the f#@k out of everyone all the time.

Otherwise, I’m outa here.

Strategy Is Story

That Can Be Told

And believed in.

“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.” — Thomas Edison. A F#@K of a long time ago.

Strategy By Meetings

I’m against meetings. If someone asks me to attend a meeting I ask what are we going to do/make/build. I like makers — people who ship product. I ask what is going to be the product of the meeting.

“We are having a meeting — so that…?

Anyway, it was a great meeting.

Just Thinking

Observations Good, Bad & Disruptive

John Caswell

Written by

May The Bridges I Burn Light My Way. I’m The Head Of Crayons At Group Partners.

Just Thinking

Observations Good, Bad & Disruptive

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