Defining strategy

It’s something of a recurring joke in my family that I have a knack for picking hard-to-explain jobs as part of a hard-to-explain career. I had an email exchange with my parents today in which I tried to sum it up in a metaphor they could use to explain it to their retiree friends in advance of our upcoming trip out to visit them.

Thought it might be of interest to others too. Just how DO you explain what a digital strategy consultant does


Ok, put away the whole web/digital part of it for a second, since that tends to intimidate people who don’t consider themselves savvy.

Say you need to build a building. The parts of the process people are most cognizant of are the creation of blueprints, the construction of the house, and the decorating and design. Part of my job is to draw up the blueprints. I don’t pick colours or paints or anything and I certainly don’t wield a hammer, but I help craft the plans that serve as the foundation. Where does the washroom go in relation to the bedrooms? Should the kitchen have a clear path from the living room or is it more important that the dining room connect?

The real challenge is that’s only part of what I do.

The other part (and the more fun part, in my opinion) comes even before that. It’s about deciding what kind of building to build in the first place. What do other buildings in the area look like? What do people who have the same goals as you make their buildings look like? Moreover, what are your goals? Why are you building the building in the first place? What purpose does it serve? Who is it intended to be used by? What do they need from your building?

And how are you going to get people to the building in the first place? Do you need typical road access? Or would access to public transportation be enough? Where do you need to put your signs to get people to the building? How many are going to be there at any one time? Will the paths be clear or will your guests get lost and leave in frustration?

Then once it’s built, how will it be maintained? Is it the responsibility of the person in each room to keep the room clean? Or is someone centrally responsible for that?

So I am part urban planner, part architect and part … civil engineer, maybe? I don’t know, it’s not a perfect metaphor. But it underscores the point that while what you see is a contractor roll out a blue print and build the thing, and a landscaper finish the yard, and the painters put on a coat of paint, the reality is a lot more went into the planning of that building.

I do that planning.