Choosing Tactics or Strategy

We often find ourselves engaged in conversations about levels of thinking. Coworkers quiz us about the “big picture.” Bosses employ words like “vision” and “mission.” We complain when others cannot “see the forest through the trees,” yet insist that every job applicant be “detail-oriented.” Some executives have their “head in the clouds,” while others spend too much time “micromanaging.” What is more important, strategy or tactics?

A successful organization needs both a grand plan and everyday victories. Yet, if an employee is struggling to complete all of their work or is mired by inefficient procedures or policies, listening to the CEO talk vaguely about his dreams for the company will probably demoralize rather than inspire. Thinking big is important, but a sweeping vision will never materialize if everyday tasks are not done quickly and correctly.

The Power of Details

We all recognize the genuine satisfaction in checking an item off our list, wrapping up a project or closing a deal. Finality comes from managing details all the way through to a conclusion, which leaves a great feeling of completion. Conversely, when tasks stretch into nebulous activities without a clear beginning or end, work starts to seem hopeless and intractable. Once there is “too much on our plate,” the thought of catching up sounds like a fantasy. The reality is, precise details are manageable and lead to productivity and accomplishment; vague objectives without clear milestones generate despair and destroy our motivation.

Focusing on tactics instead of strategy places details at the forefront. Methodology is about what we do, not why we do it. When a sales rep. can organize her leads and callbacks into a schedule, she can stay ahead of her workflow and not feel like a slave to the phone. When an accounts specialist has to restart his computer three times a day, he loses not only several hours a week, but his sense of control begins to erode. Most employees do most of their work without direct supervision. Empowering individuals to manage the details of their job enables them to achieve more.

The Power of Passion

Any manager can talk about the importance of enthusiasm in the workplace, but stringing up a banner with motivational sayings will not automatically cultivate a positive workplace culture. In fact, it is easier to imagine ways of depleting morale! When higher-ups issue a top-down mandate, it is at worst, depressing, and at best, bizarre. Rarely do emails from the boss bring good news; instead they usually outline new requirements, new expectations, and new challenges without the necessary support for implementation.

Passion does transform the workplace, and a sure-fire way to engender individual enthusiasm is to focus on tactics instead of strategy. Issuing an edict requiring everyone to adapt to a brand new, company-wide system, no matter how advanced, feels like another round of authoritarian changes. Instead, companies should give employees time to rethink how they use existing tools. Reserving even a few hours a month for tactical analysis gives workers the opportunity to contemplate ways to work smarter. This gift of time demonstrates respect for their brilliance. In turn, their acceptance of that goodwill transforms into enthusiasm, which emphasizes the fact that good tactics lead to stakeholder satisfaction.

Seeking Help

Sometimes companies do need a strategic plan with broad objectives and targets measured in years and major initiatives; however before an organization can think big, it must be able to successfully achieve small tasks completely and efficiently. Large sweeping changes will flounder and likely fail if the everyday details are not in order. An emphasis on tactics—and especially on empowering individuals to take charge of their workflow—not only increases productivity, but helps build stakeholder satisfaction. When you are not in charge and not ahead of the curve, it’s not only hard to get back on track, it’s difficult to find the motivation to change. Yet, employees who self-manage most of their work, and are equipped with the time and tools to analyze and improve their work processes, are more productive and more passionate.

Slaughter Development does not provide strategy consulting. If your company, business unit or non-profit organization is looking a decade into the future or trying to produce a comprehensive mission statement, we are not the right firm for you. But if you find yourself or your employees feeling overworked, stymied by difficult systems, processes and bureaucracies, with areas of work you hope to organize “someday,” we can help. Tactics can make or ruin a workday. Likewise, great or terrible workdays will soon transform any employee and eventually any organization. Review our reasons to reach out to determine if we might be a fit for your organization. If you are ready to look for assistance from the bottom-up rather than from the top-down, contact Slaughter Development today! -Robby Slaughter

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