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Strategy is a State of Mind

by | Oct 6, 2020 | Discoveries

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PSST tacticians. I’ve got your cheat sheet

In all my years of facilitation, I have found two types of people generally comprise any group: tacticians and visionaries. The former greatly outnumbers the latter in most groups. The next time you participate in a group conversation about strategic planning, note where people’s brains naturally go. Are they hardwired to see the world as an immediate problem to be solved or a dream to chase? It’s rarer to find a natural strategic thinker in your midst, the person who can think in multiyear segments and see a path forward.

Tacticians love to solve problems. A tactician views a trend or change as a problem to be solved. In contrast, visionaries are dreamers. They see a world of possibilities, unencumbered by the details. There’s time to solve problems tomorrow.

In between, my friends, lies strategy. Too often, the word strategy is used interchangeably with tactic when in fact they are distinct concepts.

Strategy is directional. Strategy is not a problem to be solved. Or an aspiration to be envisioned.

Here’s a cheat sheet to help you and your team focus on the strategic.

Does your team tend to get caught up in the tactics when you need to focus on strategy? Here are three tips to develop your strategic prowess.

  1. Take stock of your natural state. Are you hardwired to solve problems or dream big? Or are you the rare strategic thinker? Take stock of your group’s composition, and then using the tool above, engage in some just-in-time learning to develop your strategic capabilities. When you understand your team’s natural state, it’s easier to recognize the teachable moments that create mental shifts.
  2. Recognize this is a time of profound uncertainty. You’ve heard me describe it as certain uncertainty. Here’s the thing. This level of uncertainty makes the problem solvers among us dig in our heels a bit more and focus on the tactical problems to be solved. That presents a challenge as your organization can get so focused on next month’s problem that you miss the bigger strategic issues emerging in your field. Coaching can help your tacticians recalibrate to the certainty of change.
  3. Make strategy tangible. Think of strategy as direction setting; much like you’d view the options Siri presents when you are mapping a route. What would Siri suggest if you asked about the future direction of your organization? If I were Siri, I’d suggest you study real-world examples of strategy from other industries, examples that are familiar and easy to digest. For example, Netflix is often studied for its strategic choices. Another classic example to consider is Southwest Airlines. Each is making strategic shifts given the pandemic’s distortion power.

I predict 2021 will be more like 2020 than 2019. If you focus too much on the immediate, you’ll miss the opportunity to move forward with intention.

Don’t confuse a strategic choice with a tactical step.

I’m here to help.


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