Call me a pedant, but when I construct a sentence I usually try to use the words that describe what I’m attempting to convey. So for instance, if I wanted to talk about football I’d use the word ‘football’ not ‘broccoli’.
I’m sure I’m not alone here, but I’ve noticed this rather irritating rise in the use of the word ‘strategy’. I’m not sure why it happened, but I have a feeling it’s because people feel it’s a word that senior management types like to use, and is therefore one for the arse-kissers arsenal. It’s become a political word, a word that means: ‘If I say “oh but from a strategic point of view”, it actually means I am trying to pull-rank in this conversation.’
I read a blog recently that reported Facebook was in the process of changing its Timeline design, again, which admittedly was a bit irritating. But more irritating still was a comments-section chock-full with proliferative bullshit-marketers agonising over the fact that the slightly modified new banner design meant they needed to update their social media strategies.
Worry ye not… No social media strategies need to be updated to account for the change in a few pixels on a Facebook graphic. I’m using this example to illustrate my point, but this is not an isolated case. There is a pandemic of abuse on the semantics of the word ‘strategy’.
A strategy does not contain detail, it is merely the most basic outline of how you wish to achieve your primary objective. So for a football match, for example, your objective is pretty much always ‘to win’, right? Although you might need to remind some our my local clubs that at the moment… Anyway, the strategy you develop to achieve this may vary, it could be to train hard to build a strong defensive unit, and hoping to beat your opponents by scoring on the counter attack – or it might be to spend lots of money to buy the most expensive players on the market. That though, would be your strategy. That’s it. Not much more to it than that. Fin.
So if you talk about 1-2s with Nani and Rooney in midfield looking for opportunities to thread the ball to RVP – you are no longer talking about strategy – you’ve entered the realm of tactics.
The majority of work place discussion is actually the discussion of tactics, not strategy. Strategies rarely change, they’re long-term, that’s not to say they shouldn’t be regularly reviewed though. But tactics evolve and change quite often and, most importantly, they include details.
People seem to have this hierarchical view of the workplace: strategy>tactics>processes>operations.
This tends to be because the associated salaries with each level tends to follow this pattern highest>high>average>lowest.
But each level is just as important as the next, and no less worthy of being well managed. However I would argue if you are going to focus on one level in the workplace, strategy should not be it. Strategy is too intangible and lacks the depth to be practically useful.
Instead, I would focus on tactics. Tactics are tangible, they involve real people, real skills, real execution. Consult your strategy every 6 months or so, and make sure that your tactics accurately align with your strategy, but have tactics on the tip of your brain. They’re where the real competitive advantage lies for the majority of organisations. Oh, but don’t use the word tactics, because that makes you sound like a sports coach or military advisor – just say ‘plan’.