What are Strategic Guiding Principles?

By | June 6, 2014
This entry is part 20 of 31 in the series Defining words

Principles are general rules or maxims that have repeatedly proven successful when followed.

There are guiding principles for just about everything.  I know of the following kinds of guiding principles for strategy:

  1. Guiding principles to guide the formulation of strategy
  2. Guiding principles to guide the implementation of strategy
  3. Guiding principles for business strategy
  4. Guiding principles for IT strategy.

Note that in the above the first two overlap with the second two.  They are not all mutually exclusive.

Strategic guiding principles are both a key input and key output of business and IT strategy processes.  Guiding principles that the organization has accumulated over time are reassessed in light of a modified mission and changing environment.  New strategy is restated in the form of guiding principles to constrain the operations of business and IT.  Strategic principles provide guidance when designing the operating model and allow the operating model to be assessed to determine alignment to the business and IT strategies.

Principles meant to guide the formulation of business strategy are frequently taken from military strategy.  They are general in nature (as opposed to being specific to the organization’s strategy).  Bernard Boar lists the following such principles in The Art of Strategic Planning for Information Technology:

  • Adjust your ends to your means
  • Keep your object in mind (focus)
  • Choose the line of least expectation (surprise)
  • Choose the line of least resistance–it is better to win through indirection than by direct confrontation
  • Choose a line of operation that offers alternative objectives (adaptability)
  • Ensure that both dispositions are flexible and adaptable to circumstances (maneuverability)
  • Do not throw your weight into a stroke while your opponent is on guard
  • Do not renew an attack along the same line or in the same form after it has once failed.

Principles meant to guide the implementation of a business strategy are typically very specific to the strategy itself.  These are generally called principles but stretch the definition given in the first line of this post.  I give examples if this kind of principles here.

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  1. Pingback: Are “Guiding Principles” the same as a “Strategy”? | Alan Street

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