January 25, 2020

Strategy vs Action

Strategic thinking in business matters less than most people think. 

Within an organisation, culture eats it for breakfast. Tears it to shreds. Leaves it in the dust.

A strategy is important for defining objectives, setting direction, and focusing effort. And in close competition, it can give you an edge. But a lot of people and business cultures are too focused on strategy in the day-to-day. It leads to overthinking and over-complicating things, which it stops them from acting, ultimately making them less effective. 

Strategy sounds exciting, sophisticated, sexy, even. Some people consider it to hold almost mystical power, such is their reverence for it. But there are other, more fundamental things people and businesses should focus their energy on, like values, quality, consistency, efficiency, and getting things done. Executing trumps theorizing on paper. The map is not the territory.

Use strategic thinking to plan objectives and how to achieve them, but don’t be dogmatic when it comes to day-to-day execution. Otherwise, you may become hamstrung by your strategy, not driven by it. Mike Tyson famously said:

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

A strategy is just a tool to achieve a goal; be prepared to deviate from it when it makes sense to do so. If the stakes are high, sure, use your strategy to guide you to the goal. But when they’re not, let action be your driving force. Don’t let the tail wag the dog. 

Make sure your strategic thinking is grounded in reality, not idealism. A strategy that can’t be implemented in the real world isn’t worth the paper it is written on. And a plan without action is nothing.