Business Strategy Demystified somewhat

miliatary map with arrows and whatnot

Business strategy concerns everyone from the new startup and the fortune 500 corporation. While there a lots of books, consultants, takes, interpretations and spins on it, it helps to get not just a definition or two, but to create a small glossary to make sure everything we say is clear.

Don't worry, after this little glossary, we'll go back into talking through these things.

Landscape - the land connected to and surrounding the terrain

Horizon - the limits of our ability to perceive directly

Terrain - the texture of the land surrounding a person or point

Objective - the end goal we seek to create or attain

Mission - the meaning and significance surrounding any effort

Strategy - a general approach or method for accomplishing an objective

Roadmap - the sequence of instructions for the on-the-ground people to follow according to the situation they face

Value - the useful activity or thing that customers use your products and services for

Climate - makes us think about the long-term trends that connect to and shape our environment.

Positioning - identifying where you are on the landscape in relation to other terrain or players

Doctrine - says what leadership refers to and uses to incentivize 

Whether you're a solopreneur or serial entrepreneur, you'll come across these terms many more times. The real question is, what does this version of this list do for you compared to other versions?

First, the version aims to relate to all of the other terms, you can't define or identify things in isolation. Notions like strategy and mission are intimately connected to other aspects of trying to accomplish goals. Second, I've tried to strip the definitions of their business-laden meaning so they become plainer for lay-people like you and me.

Put that in a sentence?

Now I'm going to write a few paragraphs using all of those terms to show how the terms make the most sense in relation to one another.

Businesses create objectives to accomplish things and missions to explain to leaders and troops why a particular objective is important or critical. To achieve objectives (in military terms this means take or control land) companies look at the horizon and the landscape to notice the shape of the terrain close to them or if they can find better positioning for their efforts (defensible ground for you military buffs).

When these generals/entrepreneurs look at the horizon and landscape, they figure out where they want to go (objective) and how they want to get there (strategy). Once this is done, they create instructions to follow a particular roadmap or path to get there. They also prepare by taking note of the climate to understand what types of conditions are best for their mission.

What? an actual map?

map of a military campaign

Because I like practical things, let's look at this map and discuss a few things about the vocab we've been using. In this map, the boxes are forces and the arrows are troop movements. The objectives are where the generals say their forces should be going, and the mission is why those objectives are important.

You see all those red arrows on the left side of the map pointing to the red area? Well, that's a strategy with many roadmaps, and so are the other arrows. Strategy is a little more abstract and flexible than a particular route or roadmap to a target (not the store silly). If you look at the bumpiness around the map, you'll notice that the terrain is mostly a mountainous landscape. The climate is, well, hostile because you're at war, but the physical climate you'll have to read an almanac for that.

Hopefully that gives you a little introduction to the abstract business terms (that migrated from military campaigns) and they make much more sense than before.


If you want to learn the piano, you have to understand all of the keys, not just the ones you want to play. Hopefully putting these terms close together helps you understand how each of the terms highlight an aspect of a whole scenario.

Now that you know this, in future conversations, this will help you figure out what other people are talking about, translate it to the confused, and build common ground with the people you're talking with, and make things happen.

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