IS IT POLITICS OR IS IT STRATEGY?

4 06 2012

Following my last blog (Charity U-Turn A Lesson In Poor Consultation), I have received comment from a couple of politicians, one a current MP the other a former MP, questioning whether the Charity Tax is about politics or about strategy. Setting aside that the purpose of the blog was to highlight the importance of quality consultation to decision making, the comments raise an interesting question:

When discussing government policy and the implementation thereof, are we talking about strategy or is politics something altogether different?

For the sake of clarity, it might be wise to begin by establishing some definitions:

  • ·         Strategy – a plan or design for achieving one’s aims.
  • ·         Strategic – of or pertaining to strategy

These are not the only definitions that exist but these are the two that I use. Simplicity is often overlooked in planning (not to be confused with over-simplifying) and to me these two descriptions define the two words nice and simply leaving no room for confusion.

What about Politics? Is there a simple definition for the word?

I like the following:

  • ·         The art or science of power and government
  • ·         The policies, goals or affairs of a government or state or the groups of parties within it
  • ·         The methods or tactics involved in managing a state or government

The word ‘politics’ has a number of applications so there are other definitions but these three, in particular the last two, encapsulate the place of the ‘Charity Tax’ in this debate.

If a strategy is a plan or a design for achieving one’s aims then the Charity Tax was part of a plan intended to deliver the aim of closing tax loopholes for millionaires (whether good or bad is not relevant). It is therefore a component of strategy, it is strategic, it pertains to strategy.

For any government to deliver its political policies, its political goals, it will need to consider the strategy. Put another way, as with any business or any individual intending to achieve some aim, sensibly they will consider the ‘how;’ the how being the strategy, for strategy without the how is not strategy at all.

That does not mean that a lack of how cannot be strategic. For example a good strategy will be a plan put in place to reach a predefined state or destination, the vision, aim or objective. That predefined state or destination could therefore be strategic because it pertains to the strategy which will (should) follow its being established. Indeed, the strategy would have no purpose without it.

The third of the above definitions of ‘politics’ also contains an important word that often causes confusion; ‘tactics.’

Tactics are often and mistakenly assumed to be separate from strategy. Tactics are in actual fact the minutiae of strategy; the fine details that make the difference between successful delivery and failure.

Regardless of political beliefs, there is good and bad politics. However, whether good or bad, without strategy there is no delivery of policy and no achieving of goals. Without strategy politics is little more than a theoretical discussion. With strategy policies, such as the closing of tax loopholes, are put in place.

Which brings us to the difference between good strategy and bad strategy; a component of which is the intelligence, the consultation process which informs it. All of which brings us nicely back to my previous blog on the Charity Tax U-turn, a U-turn entirely avoidable had consultation been applied at the right time, in the right way and with the right people.

Is it politics or is it strategy?

It is both.

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, June 2012

Read more blogs by Jim Cowan

info@cowanglobal.net

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