you been told that you should become less tactical and more
strategic? If so, what specifically did the person(s) mean?
- In a recent training workshop
conducted by The Mentoring Group, almost all the high-potential,
high-performing mentees selected as their top development goal:
To become more strategic.
- Strategic versus Tactical:
What's the Difference?
- In a nutshell, strategic
refers to the "what and why" and tactical refers
to the "how."
- Strategic thinking, planning, and actions reflect
the doer's ability to consider the big picture, recognize patterns
and trends, honor priorities, anticipate issues, predict outcomes,
and have smart alternatives to fall back upon. Strategic issues
deal with overriding mission and purpose, why the organization
exists, how it makes a difference that others don't or can't
make, and where it will be in the future.
- Tactical refers to the hands-on part of getting
the job done, making sure the strategic goals are met. It's performing
each implementation task with quality and efficiency.
- Both are very important. In looking at some of the literature,
we've learned an interesting point: Leaders know and use strategy
AND they're very aware of their organization's tactics. That
doesn't mean they perform these tasks on a regular basis. But
they could if they had to, especially with a little learning.
At the very least they're aware of what "good tactics"
are and are able to recognize when others are doing them well.
They're often seen as "tactically credible" by their
teams. Just as important, they're able to show their team members
how their tactical work makes the overriding strategy possible.
- How strategic and tactical
- How are you balancing
these two approaches in your work? Are you buried in details
and day-to-day deadlines? Or are you able to see things from
a larger, longer perspective?
- Did you become successful as
a technical expert on something? Are you now managing people,
programs, or larger projects? If so, it's normal to struggle
with making the shift to a more strategic mindset.
- Have you been accused of "micro-managing"
projects, controlling every decision? Or are you able to overlook
small issues in favor of the larger picture? Do you know which
are large and small issues?
- How could your mentor help?
- One of the most valuable things
a mentor can do is help you take an honest look at yourself related
to strategy and tactics. Here are some ideas to try if you want
to develop in this area.
- Interview your mentor about the topic of strategy
vs tactics. How does he/she see the two differing? Can he/she
tell a story about when one or the other approach worked well?
Didn't work well?
- Ask your mentor to help you
develop in this area. Propose some objectives and learning
- Ask your mentor to be frank
about your efforts to be strategic. Where does your mentor see
strengths and weaknesses in you?
- Do a self analysis of
how you approached your last two big projects or decisions. Where
did you get bogged down in tactics? Why did you do this? Were
you as strategic as you could have been? How could you have improved?
What might you do next time in a similar project?
- Research the literature
on leadership and strategy. Present your findings to your
mentor (and perhaps to the other mentees) about what major thinkers
and leaders are saying and doing.
- Shadow someone with a reputation for being strategic.
This could be your mentor or someone he/she recommends. Try to
participate in a situation that allows you to observe this person
"being strategic." Interview him/her before
the event to understand the thought process, alternatives considered,
and the game plan for the situation. Watch and listen carefully
to what he/she says and does in the situation. Afterwards, debrief
what was going on. Your goal: to get inside the person's head
and learn to think like a strategic person thinks.
- Talk with your manager about
this topic. What does
she/he believe to be true about your approaches? Discuss how
you could further develop.
- For more ideas on being an effective
mentee, see our Products and Archive. For ideas on being strategic
in your personal life and career, look especially at the vision
exercises in the Archive.
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