On Strategy

Alexandre Serain Shvaloff

INDEX of Articles in French


We will publish one article per week in French on strategy. We kindly invite you to follow this link please : http://bit.ly/2T38REp

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Greetings from Paris

#stratégie #strategy #analyse #coaching #cadres #économique #economical #politique #political #militaire #défense #defence #management #leadership #projet


The purpose of these short chapters is to answer to the questions that politicians and senior managers have been asking me for years in brainstorming and coaching sessions dealing with strategic analysis, creation, management and finalisation of political and complex projects.

Recently, I was the one who asked them whether there was any point in writing about it.

The responses were unanimous. I started writing than about strategy and false strategies in short chapters.


Who am I ?

After studying fine arts and music, I continued as well studying different subjects and became researcher in neurosciences. I am co-author & author of medical textbooks (Ed. Masson, Paris), translated in English and Spanish. Former CEO of companies in electronics and cultural production in another life I also followed academic courses at EMLYON, CNAM in Paris, Yale University, Stanford University on strategy, game theory, leadership and management.

For more than 10 years, I have been dealing with executives and politicians who desire an advancement in their career or changing their activity:


Sometimes, their aim is motivated also by a desire to express their expertise in another field or they are simply seek for another life from art to agriculture.

On Strategy-I Introduction

Etymologically, the word "Strategy" is composed of "stratos" which means army and "agein" which means pushing, leading. So, strategy is, above all, a military process. Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general who fought Napoleon, is one of the modern military thinkers. His book, "On War", is still today considered by military experts as one of the most important books to understand military history. His ideas are still widely taught in military schools and are useful for the historical understanding of western strategy.

Since getting scientific precision and knowledge of the parameters that make it up, the strategy is closer to art than to hard science. The dialectical method used by strategists does not often correspond to philosophical exchanges by means of arguments of reason. In essence, the wills that generate strategy are political. Clausewitz said that - war is the continuation of politics by other means where each one wants to impose on the other a type of power that the other does not want. In our country, thinkers of strategy such as Hervé Coutau-Bégarie and Georges Henri Soutou have redefined modern strategy by "the art of the dialectic of wills and intelligences by using, among other process, force or threats of force for political purposes". This definition includes the weight of political decision-making in operational action.

The qualities of a strategist are presented in the definitions and historical examples of strategy: intelligence, creativity, knowledge, modesty and above all, respect for the opponent.

The historical approach and definitions of strategy and strategist often bear the colours of the national culture. At home, it was believed that to develop strategic thinking, it was enough to experience war or to be born with an innate gift. Of course, to be a good strategist, to be endowed with intelligence, to have lived the war with the masters of the game does not harm. However, to take war as a hard science is a mistake of scientism...

Original text in French: http://bit.ly/2spK0Qf

On Strategy-II At Stake

According to the definition of the "Académie Française Dictionary", a stake can be defined as what can be won or lost in any action. Etymologically, it means what is bet. More broadly speaking, we can understand that a stake corresponds to what will be won or lost in terms of material, money or other conquests following an action.

There are significant differences between the stake and the objective. The objective is more of an established purpose. It is a defined target that will be achieved through a series of concrete and easily quantifiable actions.

The strategist is one who stands at the intersection of the political, military and economic. He or she thinks in terms of the war as a whole, in terms of subsequent episodes, in terms of the hypotheses of a future history whose consequences will go beyond the professional competence of a single person.

The proportionality of the engagement of forces is a parameter of great importance. Once started, a resolution engaged on a "ratio of forces" can get out of control. In conflict situations, it is the escalation of violence that is a factor in the loss of control over the course of events. Clausewitz called this "ascent to extremes". As we all know, the runaway of the forces involved resulted in the deaths of millions of soldiers during the First World War. In politics as well as in economics, states of mind, hatred, blindness by the desire to annihilate the other could end in massive losses of people, property and interests.

The value of the stake cannot be defined in absolute terms. One can of course estimate the material value of the stake as money spent, ammunition used, losses of all kinds on which will be added symbolic values. For example, we live in societies that accept less and less loss of human life, even among opponents. Moreover, non-rational criteria, the fruit of highly symbolic beliefs, make the prior determination of the value of the issue quantifiable.

Original text in French: http://bit.ly/30nhAmn

On Strategy-III-Tactics and Manoeuvrers

We have already presented the notion of stake. Having received a few questions on the subject, let me make a short explanation on the differences between "tactics" and "strategy". The word tactics comes from the Greek "taktikos". It originally refers to the order, the disposition of the troops before the battle according to the dictionary of the "Académie Française". It refers to one or a set of operational dispositions adapted to the theatre of operations such as cunning, knowledge of attack and defence techniques, and adaptive troop movements, which we will discuss later.

A parenthesis is in order to introduce you to the notion of logistics, which very often goes hand in hand with tactics. Logistics is the science of movement and supply. Both logistics and tactics refer to the combination of material things and have a concrete, operational character. It is calculable and plannable in advance, which makes it quite similar to the art of the engineer...

... To make our example more telling, let's imagine that we are going to launch a new product. The press campaign, presence at trade fairs, organisation of the necessary events, creation of a dedicated website, etc. will be our tactics, such as moving tanks and infantry, coupled with the action of the planes to the opposing air bases.

Let's take the case of the creation of a website, to implement this tactic, one of the first things to do is to find computer specialists who are able to program a site according to our desires. The computer languages, the different graphic presentations that these computer specialists will use will then be "manoeuvrers". The strategy lies in the vision of our weight on the market in the next 10 years at the international level.

Thus, tactics operate at a lower level than strategy and only reflect a short-term vision with an adaptive view of actions. In the military field, it has two main objectives: (a) to protect its own troops and (b) to destroy those of its adversary.

Tactics is based on manoeuvres whose aim is to direct troops against the enemy, either to attack or to avoid it, etc., often to accomplish several of these operations at the same time.

Strategy has a comprehensive and long-term vision based on hypothetical conceptions of the future. It imagines probable futures. Tactics, on the other hand, are merely protocols for action...

For full text in French : http://bit.ly/36aAYo2

On Strategy-IV-Role of the History

For Napoleon, history is the best source for studying strategy. But, be careful! Good strategists will tell you: "you can miss tomorrow's victory by concentrating only on yesterday's battles".

Can we really guess, predict, plan for tomorrow by always looking back? At the moment everyone tries to sell "Data" through marketing. Although this data provides a statistical view of the past, it is not always accurate in relation to the future. For example, about a month before the elections, the "Big Data Machines", which analysed the predictability of voters in all directions, proclaimed the future: "Trump has no chance to win"! (https://nyti.ms/2tQOuA0). And there are some who believed... Even whose background is build with huge amount of academic diplomas. This bewilderment at the power of marketing on the part of leaders is as curious as it is distressing. What about us ? Just listen to the same "experts" shamelessly, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 month or even 15 days, before the elections, on TV shows in France like "C Dans l'Air"...

What these "Data" do in terms of sharing, sale or misuse has been the subject of another test. But we will come back to this subject in another chapter on the role of the partial digitalization of our democracies: http://bit.ly/37Jvvpg

...As you can see in the middle of the picture above, there is a fixation of the opponent group. From above of the image, one group moves quickly towards one end of the opponent's group using the "Surprise Effect". This same group, becoming more compact, denser than the disposition in which other fighters are, lets us observe the "Concentration Effect". This image could have been drawn thousands of times in history. We can repeat this scene with tanks, airplanes, and computer viruses! It doesn't matter how many times. The processes drawn on this mural are repeatable throughout history so the surprise effect and the concentration effect remain timeless. The surprise effect provokes situations where the psychological and intellectual capacities of the opponent will be overwhelmed by a too sudden change. When the mental and physical capacities of the opponent group to retaliate or to give a logical response are saturated, panic is created which then prevents an adequate reaction. All these mental capacities, all these human properties remain unchanged since prehistoric times. The surprise effect calls upon the permanent psychic mechanisms of the human being. In the military, as in the political or economic fields, the use of these effects is commonplace.

However, let us not forget that weapons are contingent at one time. The technology used in this picture is limited by the weapons of the time (bows & arrows). The adaptation of operations (tactical approaches) according to the periodic arrangements (the current historical era) in terms of technology remains unavoidable...

For full text in French : http://bit.ly/30TcGxT