Not everything labelled “Grand Strategy” is just that – Grand or even Strategy…

4 Nov

By definition; Grand Strategy; refers to a complexity of power, residing in strategic elements, both prevalent and indispensable for achieving very large-scale objectives such as winning a War or changing the political course of a nation.

In truth, No business ever reaches such a scale of work flow on the strategic level implied here. The launch of a new product for instance, could not possibly qualify for this analysis as “grand strategy” however important they are to those directly involved with it, it is still nowhere near the scale and scope of a true grand strategy – like WAR for instance.


Still, daily the term Grand Strategy is used out of context.


Now in business; for an enterprise, the “Grand Strategy”  – to be termed one – should include a cradle to grave approach, with for instance; prior calculations, assumptions, and research (by experts) on the business assumptions made in relation to what will actually be required to achieve various and diverse objectives simultaneously, through the application of concurrent running strategies – with simultaneous employment of divergent strategies and tactics for instance. Even then, it’s still not that clear-cut, or qualifies as a Grand Strategy.

The rules are different; for business there are no such things as peace and war, no transition from politics to War to achieve their aims with. It’s all substituted; there is intensive competition and “civilised rivalry” – a battle fought on supply and demand estimates – every day, but there is no conflict in which someone dies, no, contrary the outcome is severely constrained by laws, treaties, and regulation – quite civilised.

Companies compete but within these strict legal limits for market share.

Typically, a War is won, when one side surrenders, or lose, in business, even the strongest and most successful of them, is seriously constrained from taking a total share in any particular market, at most 25 per cent. In many markets the limit is far lower.

For example; the launch of the new IPhone5. The whole project from cradle to grave, could be labelled a Grand Strategy – as it constitutes several strategies; design, manufacturing, testing, development, marketing, distribution, contractual, legal, support, etc. for it is all – very diversified in nature – to have to come together at one point for it to be launched globally at one date. Yes it could be argued that it is the same path for all production. The difference is this, it’s all done in different places, cultures, languages, styles, countries, times zones etc. (It is divers in nature)

Even when sighting such an example it still only grapples with some of what is termed a Grand Strategy, and not all of it.

However there is hope; and a rule that says we can’t use the term Grand Strategy to explain that we have sorted all our strategies under one  umbrella strategy, even with many divergent strategies, and resources to achieve our main goal with. No your still not there yet…

Military historian B. H. Liddell Hart had this to say about grand strategy: the role of grand strategy – or higher strategy – is to co-ordinate and direct all the resources of a nation, or band of nations, towards the attainment of the political object of the war – to achieve the goal defined by fundamental policy.

For a strategy then to be truly a Grand Strategy it must have the following elements;

Grand strategy is an extension of several strategies combined that unfolds as one; in three ways: first; in concentrates on the judgement of leadership – are they hitting on the right course consistently – that of critical thinkers, second, it concentrates great effort – focused – on examining both internal as well as external forces as they unfold, and compensates or mitigates – third, planning becomes progressive – tactical; it becomes emergent continuous and on-going, beyond the original scope – to the point where it becomes sustainable and a living strategy – Grand Strategy.

 1.     Strategic choices are matters of “judgement and leadership”, taken within a ring-fenced parameter;
requiring a certain amount of “constraint and intelligent reassessment” of ends and means”. As defined by a policy. 

2.     It is constantly examining internal as well as external forces – creating a situational awareness.

3.     Planning becomes tactical

With the application and use of various strategies, and tactics to achieve several goals with, all in pursuit of the greater objective, it then becomes imperative to have good controls and measures in place.  It is very critical to the actual economics of scale and the effective and efficient use of resources, that the level of expertise and experience match the scale of work, as well as their availability to command and control the scope of work – to  co-ordination – and to gauge – asses – if they do it right the strategy will survive…

 The focus of grand strategy is both global and ultimately unifying; with the main-focus on long-term sustainable development, with the main emphasis on sustainability, where several projects and strategies will be forth coming, the grand strategy or master strategy will be the backbone and corners stone acting as reference framework for all other strategies emerging.

Grand strategy becomes the constitution of the company, when guided with formal rules and principles endorsed by the entire organisation. In other words, multidimensional strategies governed by one strategy, the grand strategy.

The six components that make up a Grand Strategy;


  1. It has clearly defined objectives; sorted under secondary and then main, and ultimate the final, or overall objective, creating a rout map to the ultimate objective. So, it’s a strategy divided into a hierarchy of objectives, siting the strategies to achieve them.  (Set Objectives can change, or even become unattainable, then a change in direction is required, or a backup plan, effective handling of main steam activity;  production, communication, marketing, would be wise. as these instances will require immediate action). Objectives could even include the subservient goals of a particular strategy aimed at specific future expansion and growth avenues; operations are redefined based on facts, trends and research rather than thoughts or opinions. This is why set objectives state the desired specific outcome for the operational components to act on.
  2. Situational assessment/ general analyses; assessing the current conditions that characterises judgement about something based on an understanding of the situation then vs. now, a method of evaluating performance and attainment by re-prioritizing objectives and goals, as the strategic landscape changes constantly to steer the process of strategy with. Informed and guide by policy. ( this could also include, law, treaties, regulations, and guidelines, SOP’s as well as constraints).
  3. Operations and tactics; the act of making something carry out its function, or controlling or managing the way it works, by deliberately supervising, monitoring, and co-ordinating these activities as they unfold.
  4. Gauging general people dynamics; the corporate culture and moral, as well as environment, and leadership influences all play a cardinal role on success.  By taking into account  the sociological state – of human interaction – that of your most valued resources; by identifying the forces – and the condition/s  under which they are most productive, or effective; to see that they are still valid, or applicable, and creating such conditions that tend to produce activity and change in a specific situation, is called effective and both efficient management.
  5. Resources; anything drawn on or utilised by a company for making profit; the likes of personnel, capital, machinery, or stock. Maximizing there worth. Making sure that there is minimal waste…and that things happen in time and on time is key to operational discipline and effectiveness, not to forget the importance of being backed up by a sound structure and systems design…policy and procedure.
  6. The process of Review; to examine something critically, to make sure that it is adequate, accurate, or correct in its assumption and application.

By understanding the scope of Grand Strategy it will define the need for it.

  • Ascertaining of several diversified objectives is the focal point of all grand strategy, in pursuance of one key objective. The ultimate objective of this hierarchy, in strategic terms, is to determine the correct content of all components of operational strategy; its goals and their attributes. At each subservient level, we also find those things strongly related to ultimate ends; including values, visions, culture, worldview, and ideology that tend to connect the dots with the vision of the grand strategy. The charter or constitution of an organisation is in its grand strategy – a formal written statement of the aims, principles, and procedures that need to be followed (a dogma) in all matters of strategy.
  • Assessment; refers to the in-depth analysis and interpretation of facts, in relation to the perceived situation, the reality of the strategic terrain, as it was, as it is, and as it will be in the near and foreseeable future, shaped by critical insight and judgement as to what is realistic and possible under the prevailing circumstances.
  • This is done, or achieved; through purposeful threat analysis and constructing of contingencies for strategy as part of any strategic assessments, we require mitigating steps and provisions incorporated. It also has to do with “knowing the enemies of strategy” and being able to prepare effectively for any shifts and changes in the strategic landscape, to counter blind spots with and irregularities experienced at operational levels, in order to proceed with achieving goals whilst balancing the forces that work in on it, in step, as and when it unfold.
  • Tactics refer to the techniques employed at operational level to achieve goals with in relation to the objectives they serve. Here the question is whether we are doing things right, or doing the right things?
  • It is about the how it should be done, and not the way it should be done, the systems to be used; the financial systems, the acts, regulations and procedures, vested in departments and people, the way the organisation does things,  and how it prescribes to us to go about accomplishing our goals.
  • Tactics tend to be focused on the details at hand, of actions prompted by engagement – the rules of engagement – state that for every action there will be an equal and opposite action, to anticipate  the cycle – next step – and follow up and the follow through, until the cycle is closed or completed.
  • Operations, in turn, are the co-ordinated activities that groups and organisations engage in to further their strategic plan. Generally, operations involve the simultaneous employment of many tactical capacities and advantages, and capability to get the initiative and keep it. To strengthen, or support one aspect of a strategy – also called starting  a project. Operations or projects were designed to fast-track strategic activity…
  • Dynamics is the understanding of the order inside chaos, it works from within to outside, if it is rotten inside it will manifest on the outside, both with people and organisations this holds true. The interplay between several strategic actors energy against several others energy within the same section of their environment, influence it either positive or negative. We cannot act in contradiction but aim for harmony and synergy in planning events. Dynamics is the sum of our focus, we cannot control other people no matter how hard we try and instead we have to change their focus to change their effect. The grand strategy must prepare for effective coordination of effect, perception management is key in this instance  where we deal with several strategies; each strategy in turn must prepare for the ensuing chaos and battle for supremacy, within the options and opinions that become available to the players vs. what is available to their opponents. There must always be something in reserve, a provision made for absorbing losses, or regeneration, and re-engineering to soak up the spill-over effect. The stress and uncertainty that tends to knock strategy of its tracks, positively and creativity must be the focus, focus perpetuates into working environments becoming working habits, positively recreating the work culture. Critical analysis allows the strategist to correctly locate, correlate, and plot these necessary interim requirements to fuel the process (milestones and secondary objectives) or intermediate objectives (strong points) on the road to the ultimate objective.
  • Resistance creates feelings of what we do not want; the more we focus on this the more we tend to create of it, where instead we should focus more on what we want.
  • The fear of the unknown drives us to question ourselves, the process, our creativity, and ability.
  • Vision, mission and goals, are all good, but will only deliver if we believe it, then we can achieve it. Just like a car, driving on a road at night with its headlights on, it can only see the immediate, and consequently the driver can only react to what it sees.
  • Likewise, the critical evaluation of forces impacting us, both internal as well as external informs us about crucial decisions that we should take in advance, highlighting priorities, best practice, flawed assumptions, and gaps, and dictating the sequences of actions required in averting and overcoming any problem or obstacle.
  • It is an on-going process, the utilisation of the OODA loop gives us options; as to what we should be concentrating more efforts on, to stay current, what should we do first becomes apparent and what next and last becomes a mere choice.
  • There is always a dynamic relationship between the components of strategy and the processes of strategy that we follow – that help it along – between the main objectives, secondary objectives, goals and their attributes in relation to its dynamics – the forces that tend to produce activity and change in any situation or sphere of existence.
  • Consider the results we achieve with strategy as being the domino effect worthy and representative of our efforts and wants. The outcome of any strategy is a true reflection of the energy and contemplation we had put into it, nothing more nothing less.
  • Resources are about institutions, suppliers, material, organisations, money, and people. Resources must be amassed and managed to reduces waist and optimize potential. Closely related is the concept of infrastructure; however, resources and infrastructure are not related. Access to lots of resources does not automatically translate into strong infrastructure – the large-scale public systems, services, and facilities of a country or region that are necessary for economic activity, including power and water supplies, public transport, telecommunications, roads. Rather, strong infrastructure depends on how effectively people, money, and other resources are organized, and integrated, to exploit it to its fullest potential seen as one system.
  • Finally, review is the critical component of continuing on the path of great strategy, systematically assessed strategy is an on-going pursuit. Assessments provide the structured and required feedback, as guidance to all levels of strategy and management, on how to improve on strategic plans and achieve strategic envisions.
  • Operational mobility; includes all functions to implement the overall strategy of an organisation by giving direction to tactical decisions and providing them with the necessary support needed to reach their aims.

Even the largest companies may avoid entering the discussion of whether or not to use the word “grand strategy” but with the challenges and complexities we face today, we have become much diversified and complex in our own strategic approaches, therefore they do suggest that we have much to learn from those who analyse the relationships between facts and perception. Before they become strategic and then Grand…

Read more on my blog; or Read the book or Ebook; Read more in my new book Strategic Management, The Radical Revolutionary Strategic Management Matrix for Predators by Reinier Geel, now available at these stores

4 Responses to “Not everything labelled “Grand Strategy” is just that – Grand or even Strategy…”


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