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August 11, 2015

Banning the Word “Strategic”

by Anne Paddock

We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.                                                             ~Herb Kelleher

Strategic is one of those words that stop most people in their tracks. It’s a wow word, as in powerful, especially when used in conjunction with other words: strategic plan, strategic advice, strategic research, strategic communication, strategic marketing, strategic management, strategic innovation, strategic goals, strategic direction, strategic leadership, and my personal favorite: strategic partnership or alliance (what is so novel about working with other people, teams, or companies?).

Have you ever noticed that when a company or someone wants to impress or get shareholders to back off, somehow the word “strategic” enters the conversation? It’s one of those words designed to inspire awe and wonderment at the pure genius of those steering the boat, when in fact, it’s usually a delay tactic. As much as the user would like you to think a major breakthrough or light bulb moment has occurred, it’s more important that ever to ask more questions because the description of an action is not really an action.  It’s like saying an adjective is a verb.

Strategic is one of the most overused buzz words in the industry.  When I read it, I think about the time my friend’s 3-year old son jumped out of his seat in the middle of a sermon, stood in the aisle with his hands on his hips and said “blah, blah, blah” to the man pontificating at pulpit in the front of the church. He had had enough and was saying “cut to the chase and make your point.” If it were up to me, the word “strategic” would be banned because I feel like I’m being totally bullshitted whenever I read a sentence that includes it. I want to say “tell me what you’re really going to do” because verbs imply action and action is what I want to know about.

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