Strategy lessons from a cycling tour

[3-minute read]


I just returned from the traditional cycling vacation with my brother. Every year we rent an apartment in a nice location and go on daily cycling tours – weather permitting. This year he had our base in Thun, near the Bernese Mountains.

One of the tours my brother had in mind was a round trip from Thun to Zweisimmen, Lenk, Adelboden, and back to Thun. Those a bit familiar with the region know what this means: A relatively long tour with quite some climbing.

To be exact, the tour was 130 km long with about 2’000 m of climbing, clearly at the upper limit of my abilities, even with an e-bike. To avoid finding myself exhausted with an empty battery and 50 km still to go, it was clear that I needed a strategy.


The story mentioned above nicely illustrates what strategy is all about.
But what is a strategy? One of my favourite definitions of strategy is the following:

“A strategy is a plan to achieve an objective with limited resources”.

A good strategy contains at least the following elements:

  1. An objective or aspiration.
  2. A set of challenges to overcome.
  3. A plan of action on how to achieve the objective considering the challenges.

In the case of our trip:

  1. The objective was to complete the round trip in 7 hours or less.
  2. The challenges were the distance, the altitude, the limited battery capacity of our bikes, and our physical capabilities.
  3. The action plan was to use as little battery as possible on the flat sections, save it for the climbs, and take frequent breaks to drink and eat. As simple as that.

The strategy worked brilliantly, and we arrived back at our base within 6 hours, tired but not exhausted, with some battery to spare.

Why am I sharing this story?

Because I often see people talking about strategy while not being clear about what strategy is all about. In many cases, at least one core element of a good strategy is missing.

For example, a typical case is for a strategy to mention lofty goals and objectives but not the challenges to overcome. What I also see quite often are so-called strategies without guidance for action. The objective may be clear, but not how to achieve it.

For more reading on good and bad strategies, check out the article series on my blog – links below.

Invitation for action

If what I shared above resonates with you, remember to ask yourself four questions whenever you are trying to achieve an important objective.

  1. What are we trying to achieve?
  2. What are the challenges we need to overcome?
  3. What are our actions?
  4. Are our actions sufficient to address the challenges?

If you are an SME leader interested in strategy, I invite you to join a webinar I am doing together with strategy expert Marc Sniukas on July 12th.

We will be covering the following topics

  • What’s keeping SMEs from being more strategic?
  • How to do strategy in a simple and manageable way?
  • What are the benefits for SMEs
  • and more…

I look forward to seeing you on the webinar.

In the meantime, take care, stay safe, and get meaningful work done.

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