Are you too strategic?

“Ammar, you are not tactical. We need to get you to be a bit more tactical.”

That statement took me by surprise! But I’d better listen as it came from a Special Ops retired officer.
“What do you mean more tactical?” I always wanted to be strategic. I never cared for tactics. Which made me want to listen more. He went on to tell me how one cannot succeed without tactics. It made sense what he was saying. So what can a business professional miss by being not tactical enough? Can one be too strategic? This is what I found out:
"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory," according to Sun Tsu, but "Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." These two quotes helped me see the importance of both sides.
So what is someone missing if he or she is strategic but not tactical? A lot. Let us take examples:

Starting with yours truly. I started a Cafe long long time ago that had to close down six months after opening. I was too strategic. Not tactical enough. The concept of the cafe was really good. It was a cake focused Starbucks. But it will take time. A lot of time to succeed. I did not see that. I saw a great concept that will eventually work. What was not working for me was the tactics. First, I picked a not so good location. Also, by the time I finished setting up the cafe I only had cash to do marketing for the first two months. Which was not enough at all. I had a good idea, but I was running out of cash soon. I had to fold.

I know many other friends who had a similar experience; a great idea strategically positioned to succeed, but they did not take care of the tactics. The tactics are what carry the business day to day. Helps you handle daily problems, resource and cash needs, etc.

Back to my Special Ops friend. His advice was to always think like a boy-scout would think. “Always be prepared,” he said. For example, in Special Ops we can have a great strategy, but if we do not handle the immediate obstacles that might face us, our mission will be doomed from day one. So he said to think about where things will go wrong. Thing about what you will need and what you might need if conditions change. What smaller maneuvers are necessary to help you reach your goal, at a more detailed level than what you do when you work out your strategy.

In the quest to be strategic people, we sometimes forget tactics.  I don’t think this is a majority, but some are like that. And this can be a problem.

This usually happens with people who love to dream and think big.  they usually have no problem plotting plans for the future, but they forget about how they will cope with today.

Many learn this the hard way.

A friend of mine had an idea to build the first of its kind software solution.  He did.  And it was the first of its kind.  But the market was not ready for it.  For the whole concept.  The result: a few hundred thousand dollars in debt and a bankrupt company.  Three years later, others came up with same idea and made millions and the rest is history.

My friend was too strategic.  He could not see the immediate need for his company to adapt to the current market needs, until the market was ready for the future and for his product.

There are many other examples of visionaries who went bankrupt or did not succeed in business even though they had a great idea. Take Tesla for example.  The only thing Edison had over Tesla was the business accumen.  Tesla electricity idea was the future.  But he did not know how to work the market.

Another friend I know started a restaurant idea based on a  new concept.  He closed shop within six months because he could not stay afloat.  He ran out of cash.

We are taught to be strategic but we need to also to be taught how to be tactical.  How to adapt to the market.  How to be flexible.

This is a challenge I need to work on.  As I find solutions and tips I will share.  Can you please share your tips on being tactical?

Comments (2)

  1. I would start with a well know say “the need is the mother of invention!” , so all stories above are really true, even you can hear about one like that from time to time.
    People who dreams big for the future are the best, but as long as the market is not ready they shall not profit out of it. So keeping such an idea should remain an asset for them, from time to time to develop it more.
    One thing works for me for any big transforming project, is rolling the wave planning style!!!
    Maybe it sounds crazy, but what do you think about those who think big and ahead of the market need??!!, i believe both are equal.
    Rolling the wave planning style keeps you focusing on the target, at the same time providing flexibility to adapt with all obstacles, maybe a small mannouver here or there, but finally you can -at real time- feel the distance to your target shrinking.
    However; it’s a long and painful style especially for long projects that lasts for a few years.
    What do you think?

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