As I was finishing graduate school, it was remarkable how many career discussions revolved around potential job titles and how many classmates yearned for a “strategy” role…not necessarily strategic in nature but strategic in title. Business Analyst or Consultant? Not interested. Strategic Business Analyst or Consultant? Now we’re talking. At times, there was more concern with the label of the role than the nature of the role.

I had a bit of a flashback this week in an account meeting. On a continuum between commodity supplier and strategic partner, how are you perceived by your buyer? Strategic, definitely strategic. How much of their discretionary spend are you getting? Hmm, maybe 5-10%. Have you done joint planning to lay out their upcoming key initiatives and determine specifically how you’re going to help? Goodness no. Could you get a joint planning session scheduled with your buyer? Maybe, but our key contact usually tells us to go talk to his direct reports. Are you sure you’re strategic? Oh yes, definitely strategic. Ok, you’re strategic…just like everyone else.

Strategy is great, and most organizations have (at least) one to set direction and focus tactical activities. It’s not the end game, however. And including it in the title doesn’t make it so.