1 useful method for keeping strategic when you’re tactically focused

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 07-23-13

You might be in an organization that is all about the tactical. It’s the “what’s next?”, action-oriented, go-go-go culture. There are certainly benefits to this environment. It avoids inaction and it gets things done; a good idea unimplemented isn’t much value. It is generally pretty focused. It is generally performance-oriented. However, that comes at a price.

Heads-down focus means heads-down, which means you’re not looking up at where you are going. You don’t reflect on where you’ve been and how you got there. You don’t think about your vision of where you want to go, and how you get there. You just plow ahead. And if you’re headed in the wrong direction, you’ll find out sooner or later (but usually later).

The tactical will squeeze out the strategic almost all the time. Some organizations, particularly the larger ones, try to overcome this with dedicated resources focused on the more strategic efforts. But unless those strategies can be executed in isolation, they still won’t’ accomplish their goals. So the question becomes, how can you get the strategically important tasks done in an environment that lives and breaths the tactical?

One method: convert the strategic into the tactical.

Don’t try to bounce between working on the daily tactical and working on the strategic. Weave them together as tightly as you can. This requires converting the strategic elements into very specific actions, as small as possible. If the strategy is to ‘expand into Brazil’, then the action should not be ‘study Brazil market’ but something actionable, such as ‘talk to customer X about their activities in Brazil’.

The more the actions to execute the strategy feel on par with your daily reactive actions, the more they will blend together. Then you can put them on the same list, and review them in the same forums.

You will still need to pull your head out of the weeds every once and a while to ensure that your strategies still make sense and that you are headed in the right direction. But you won’t get to those time periods of strategic reflection with the idle promise of “this time, we’re going to take our strategy seriously.”

Reflection question: how do you ensure that you still get the strategically-important things done when you are surrounded by pressures of the tactical?