Have you ever noticed the subtle way people sometimes belittle others by labeling their input as "tactical"? This often happens when someone offers a practical idea, and the response is quick: “Yeah, but that’s tactical. We need to think strategically about this.” Such statements, intended or not, dismiss a person’s contribution.
Sure, strategic thinking has its time and place. There are moments when we need to think strategically, but more often than not, we need to be tactical. Yet, in meetings, I've observed people hiding behind the safe blanket of strategic thinking, making statements like, “Let’s zoom out” or “Is there another way to think about this?”
However, strategic thinking can sometimes be a way to avoid the nitty-gritty details, work, or making tough decisions. It's a way to sidestep admitting that we don’t know what to do next.
I understand the importance of being strategic. As Peter Drucker wisely said, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Strategy helps us focus on the right things, avoid working on the wrong ones, and make progress toward our ultimate purpose.
I firmly believe that strategy is everyone's responsibility, not just CxOs. Jeroen Kraaijenbrink, in his book "The One-Hour Strategy: Building a Company of Strategic Thinkers," emphasizes that strategy should be part of everyone’s job. Although not everyone needs to attend the annual executive planning offsite, everyone should allocate some time to work on strategy that aligns with their contributions.
Kraaijenbrink introduces the One Hour Rule:
Executives spend one hour per day
Managers spend one hour per week
Employees spend one hour per month on strategy.
This rule provides a reasonable proportion of time that people should dedicate to strategy.
However, there's another perspective that advocates for leading with tactics. This school of thought suggests that you can and should execute your way to a strategy, especially when starting something new. Acting, doing, and trying are essential for learning and figuring things out.
The Lean Startup methodology, Scrum, and A/B testing all revolve around this principle of learning through action. Just having a strategy, no matter how impressive the slide deck, doesn't guarantee it's the right or a good strategy. The only way to find out is to tactically execute it.
So why do we sometimes belittle tactics? Criticizing others for being tactical misses the point. Most important things are accomplished by taking tactical action, even without perfect information.
If we wait too long to develop a perfect strategy, the world will pass us by. Let’s check ourselves every time we think of criticizing someone for being tactical. Remember, tactics make things happen. If you truly want to be strategic, follow the one hour rule.
The book: The One-Hour Strategy: Building a Company of Strategic Thinkers by Jeroen Kraaijenbrink
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