strategy

Combining a Strategic Mindset With Your Tactical Base

A few weeks ago, we discussed the marks of a master tactician. A tactician is project-oriented, fast-moving and responsible for the implementation of day-to-day tasks. We then dove into the marks of a master strategist.  A master strategist values taking time to think, processing through the long-term impact of decisions while considering the views of others. But any leader needs to be able to combine a strategic mindset with a tactical base.  This is a necessary skill if one wants to ascend to the Vice President role and above in a large company. If you are running a smaller business, you already know that you need both strategy and good tactical skills in order to succeed.

Here are ways to merge a strategic mindset with your tactical base:

1. Must develop a keen sense and drive for strategy and execution.

To advance, you must develop a keen sense and drive for both strategy and execution. It is not enough to merely see a need; you must have the skills and capability to carry that need out. One cannot exist without the other. Both must be nurtured, grown, and improved upon.

2. Know how to develop a strategic plan that encompasses your keen sense and drive for execution.

A strategic plan that doesn’t keep in mind how it will be executed is just a dream (See Marks of a Master Tactician for more details on the elements you will need to remember). While thinking long-term is crucial, it is important to be able to craft tangible, short-term objectives to move towards the overarching goal. A goal becomes muddied without specific steps to get there. Moreover, craft the plan to the strengths of the individuals who will be executing.  This will increase the likelihood of success.

3. Understand what competitors are up to and relay important competitor info up the chain as quickly as possible.

Part of the above plan will include understanding your competitors' strengths and weaknesses and how to position your company best in light of that knowledge.

4. Get buy-in from so many different parties.

Before executing a strategic plan, it is important to gain buy-in from other departments and teams. This buy-in could prove invaluable as you will probably need their help from time to time and they could also notice any blind spots in the plan that will help you to refine it.  As an aside, getting buy-in from different parties also helps to diffuse accountability.

5. Making sure that each person executing is clear on their role, the decisions they can make and what they are responsible for.

Sometimes you can come up with a brilliant strategic plan but if your team is not clear on their roles, what decisions they can make and what they will be accountable for that can lead to things being dropped and poor execution. This must be clear before the project starts.

6. Don’t second-guess plan once you start to execute.

Once all of the above is accomplished and you start to execute it, it is important that you don’t second-guess the plan.  This doesn’t mean that you won’t make some course-corrections as you receive feedback (see below) but it does mean that the overall direction won’t drastically change.  The larger your company is, the harder it will be to make a dramatic change.

7. Must assess the initial feedback after executing the strategy and make course-corrections on the fly.

As feedback comes in, you will start to spot trends, make subtle changes, and improve the tactics. However, the overall strategy should not change that much.  The course-corrections typically are about the tactics not the strategy.

8. Review, Refine, Review, Refine.

Continually review the strategic plan and refine it as you go.  It will help to sharpen the next strategic plan that you develop.

Chew On This:

  • How can you integrate both strategy and tactics to optimize your effectiveness in your role?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of a company that equips business leaders to develop the teams that everyone wants to work for.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

The Mark of a Master Strategist

Master strategists are a rare breed of people.  They are able to play high level chess and make it look as simple as playing checkers. A few years ago, I started working with a vice president whose role was to head up a Latin American department for a Fortune 1000 company.  As we brainstormed different initiatives, he more than showed himself to be a master strategist.

As his coach, my job was to provide an environment where he could explore various options for resolving the issues he wanted to resolve.  As he answered questions, I learned so much about strategizing that I felt like I should pay him for letting me sit in on his “thinking time.”

If you want to become a master strategist, there are certain key disciplines to consider developing.  If you read last week’s blog, you will know that the insights on this blog and the next come from a team of very talented directors in a well known global company.

While being tactical is a practical, hands-on skill, strategy is a thinking skill.  One that can be grown and developed.

Certain personality types, especially INTJ’s, have a strong predisposition towards becoming master strategists, but the VP that I mentioned in the first paragraph, along with many other ISTJ or ESTJ VPs I’ve worked with, have grown from being master tacticians to developing a real knack for being strategic.

Here are the marks of a master strategist:

1. Master strategists free up time & then fiercely protect that time.

Strategists must have room in their schedule and mind to think.  They look for ways to block off even 15 mins just to think.

Once they free up time, they protect it, just like they would an important meeting. Time and space to brainstorm are not seen as a waste but as an essential part of success.

Without taking this first step seriously, they wouldn’t be able to move to upper levels of strategy.

2. They spend time with those who are also master strategists and those that are higher up than them.

Nothing beats being around the masters. They look around and find those who really get strategy and become a regular feature on their calendar. They ask if they can sit in on times when they are brainstorming strategies with their team and soak it all in. A master strategist surrounds himself with like-minded people.

3. They think long term.

Master strategists typically think long-term--3, 5 and even 10 years ahead. They consider how the events of today are going to impact that time frame. They think about other industry events and where they will be in the long term. In essence, they are futuristic, taking into account the long-term impact of their decisions.

4. They stay close to the company’s broader vision.

Master strategists pay close attention to the company’s broader vision and align strategies with it.  This is a great way to gain buy-in throughout the organization.

5. They cultivate different points of view.

Master strategists develop relationships with different departments so that they can get a feel for what they care about, how they think about it, the concerns and issues they have, what they consider to be successes and where they sense the future is headed.

In doing so, they are able to spot trends (see below) and think big picture.

6. They step back & spot trends.

As they get to know different departments, master strategists start to see certain themes that are consistent across the company. They see how others in the company think through things. They see things the way that higher-ups see them. But they also get a feel for what is going on in the front lines, which often the higher-ups don’t get to see as quickly as they might.

They also look at the data and see what the company wants to invest in over the long haul.

7. They plan ahead to take advantage of those trends.

Once they see the trends, they ask themselves how, in their specific role, they can take advantage of those trends.

They manage risks by first filling the facts box and sharing those facts with key executives; then, they can write a summary page so the executives know what they will be getting.

They must define what issues they are facing and be thorough with the process.

They need a robust fact base to make sure that they are solving for a real need.

Any alternatives should be fought about.

Strategic thinking is about asking the right questions: How will we win?  What is at stake?  How do you define success? What would the different departments say about this plan?

Master strategists think of all the angles so they can anticipate every question and plan for it with their team. They also make sure they are clear on what they need to execute their plan.

8. They foresee obstacles and plan ahead to overcome those obstacles.

Master strategists also consider the obstacles that are going to come.  Once they see the trends, they ask themselves what obstacles will naturally appear.

They take the list and decide how their team can best tackle those obstacles before they even arise.

9. They get validation and buy-in, paying close attention to feedback.

They consider who needs to buy in, thinking in terms of what the stakeholders value and how their plan fits in with those values.

As they implement their plan, they pay attention to the feedback they receive and make tweaks. They are aware of when it may be best to abandon the plan.

10. They anticipate the informational needs of their boss and boss’s boss.

Thinking in terms of what their boss and boss’ boss want to know to make decisions at their level, they may gain greater insights in how to think strategically.

Becoming a master strategist is easier for some than for others.  However, everyone can improve their strategic skills by recognizing the marks of a master stragetist.

 

Chew On This:

  • How can you become a more skilled strategist?
  • Who on your team embodies these strengths?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of a company that equips leaders to develop in-demand high-performing-teams.

The Marks of a Master Tactician

I am coaching a group of directors who all want to become vice presidents in their companies. These men and women are sharp, gifted individuals. Already they are making a significant impact where they are. They are master tacticians, skilled at executing the strategic initiatives set by those over them.

There used to be a day when vice presidents could be either tactical or strategic. However, those days are gone. More and more companies are wanting to see that prospective VP’s can do both.

The group I'm coaching already shows great signs of being able to flex their strategic muscles, but they've been in roles that are heavily tactical.

Moreover, they are so busy implementing what they are tasked to do that they have little room for what it takes to practice the art of strategy.

In this multi-part blog series we are going to discuss:

  • The Marks of a Master Tactician
  • The Marks of a Master Strategist
  • Combining a Strategic Mindset With Your Tactical Base

As a leader, you may already be identifying in your mind who on your team is more strategic and who is more tactical.

To advance excellence in your team, all members of the team need to understand and implement principles of both--what it takes to be a Master Tactician and what it takes to be a Master Strategist.

The higher up they move in the company, the more they will be working through others, so they will need a strategic mindset to succeed.

However, those who are closest to the front lines, who require a tactical mindset, will also need to understand what you as the leader need in order to make effective decisions for the good of all.

For example, suppose your frontline had a basic training on how to spot trends not yet revealed by the data you are seeing. Imagine what a difference that would make to you and to the company.

If a team were to take this basic training, what might they draw out about what it means to be tactical? Basically, it is “work done below the shoulders.”

Those who are strong at being tactical are strong at executing. So tactical people are operational.

Tactical people’s line of vision is focused on the shorter term.  Sometimes it means being focused in the moment.  As such, they can be reactionary, but must definitely be adaptable and flexible.

Let’s look at what the work life of a master tactician entails:

1. They achieve the strategy for their small part of the business.

While they may have some awareness of the overall strategy for the company, tacticians usually don’t have overall details, but they do have details for their part of the business.

Once they receive the strategy, master tacticians know who on their team needs to do what in order to accomplish the goals.  They put together solid plans and work the plan. This gives them a great deal of control in the day-to-day operations, as long as higher ups trust them to execute.

2. They are resource management oriented.

Master tacticians directly use the resources of the company to accomplish the strategy.  As such, masterful ones are wise with how they allocate the resources, and they are accountable for how they use them.

3. They are project-oriented.

Tacticians go from project to project, often working a few different ones at the same time.  They get the benefit of seeing the fruit of their labors in shorter term bursts than the strategists do.  This can be incredibly rewarding.

4. They are fast-moving and always busy.

There is never a break.  There is always a ton of work. There are always decisions to be made as to what gets dropped. There is a constant need to filter all that they have through Julie Morgenstern’s 4 D’s - Delegate, Delete, Delay, and Diminish.

Many have at least double digit unread messages -- if not triple.  Their work is such that they can’t stop.  There are always more meetings, or stakeholder calls to make, in addition to the projects they are on.

However, those who are master tacticians thrive in that type of fast-paced environment.  If they are in the right tactical role, they are never bored.  There is always something to do.

5. Typically, the only time they think about the business is when they are on vacation, or about to fall asleep.

As you can infer from above, the thought of being able to stop and really think about the business seems like a luxury to them.  Many say that the only time they do is when they are on vacation or about to fall asleep.

For some personality types, that could be a gift.  Yes, it could be frustrating not to have more of a say in the strategy, but those who love to execute thrive here.

It is easy to see why some people would never want to leave the tactical realm.  If they are wired for it, they can get into their comfort zone and never leave.

However, as I said earlier, the days are now here that in order to move to higher levels in a company, there has to be a strategic mindset as well as a tactical one.

Chew On This:

  • Who on your team is more tactically oriented?
  • Who is more strategic?
  • Who seems to balance both really well?
  • Who are you thinking of promoting? :-)

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of a company that equips leaders to develop the teams that everyone wants to work for. *This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.