Take a close look at your organization’s strategy. Is it truly a strategy? Or is it a goal masquerading as a strategy?

When Yahoo and Microsoft announced their web-search deal, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz said, “Our strategy as a company is growing audience and enhancing our display-advertising business. That is what really makes sense.” What really doesn’t make sense is that Ms. Bartz identified their goals as their strategy.

To help executives at all levels with these terms, I developed the G.O.S.T. framework to highlight their respective definitions. Goals and objectives are “what” you are trying to achieve while strategy and tactics are “how” you are going to achieve them. A goal is what “generally” you’re trying to achieve, such as “#1 market share.” The objective is what “specifically” you’re trying to achieve, something like “attain a 43% market share for our silly-willy service by the end of the third quarter in 2010.”

Strategy is how “generally” you’re going to achieve the goals and objectives, maybe something along the lines of “leverage relationships in top 5 accounts regionally with thought-leader experiential learning.” The accompanying tactics, or how “specifically” you’re going to achieve the goals could include a two-day leadership summit in Tibet and online access to proprietary leadership learning modules.

The subtle distinction between goals and strategy can be the difference between market leadership and a million-dollar oops.

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