“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
– Sun Tzu
I’m taking a competitive strategy course right now, which has raised my awareness of being strategic in my thinking and actions. I think everyone who considers themselves “hard working” tend to do a lot in a day, and to be very productive, but knowing if you’re doing the “right” things can be a difficult question to answer. I believe that this challenge applies to marketing efforts, as well.
I spent a good part of my twenties trying to master the art of productivity, which I define as accomplishing a certain number of tasks within a given timeframe. Time management is a big pice of this puzzle, and it took me a long time to really understand it comprehensively. Little things like predicting the amount of time it will take to finish any given task has really helped me “chunk” out a day into a series of manageable tasks.
The next step, I feel, is making sure that I do what’s important, as opposed to what’s urgent. This is a skill that I’ve been trying to acquire over the past two years. Right now I’m writing a blog post, is that really the most effective use of my time? This is where I believe strategy can be applied with great success; it can help us decide which actions to take, and it can help us define what a successful outcome to any solution is. By definition, “being strategic” can boil down to answering a few basic questions and relegating tasks and task management to your core goals and objectives:
- Goals can be defined as open ended, “more is always better” statements about what you want. “Become the largest seller of product XYZ”, or “Be the number 1 software firm in the world”
- Objectives are similar to goals, but are quantifiable and typically have a time dimension. Objectives might be “achieve 20% CAGR in 2011”, or “capture an additional 5% of market share”.
- Strategy gets into the “how” you will achieve an objective or a goal. This is where most of the work comes into play, and where you need to spend a lot of time looking at your available resources to decide where you can win, and which battles you need to forgo. “We’re going to build an application that addresses the needs of this target market in 2011, then build from that base over the next three years”
- Tactics are the action items that break down the strategy into small, manageable pieces. These are the the battles. “buy SEM and display media, build and market a Facebook Page with a goal of XX,XXX Fans by May 1st”
The elegant benefit of doing all of this upfront strategy development is that it promotes productivity to effectiveness. To-do lists should be comprised of items that support the strategy, the strategy supports the objective and the objective supports the goal. Assuming that your strategic thinking is sound, your tactical actions will all increase your effectiveness at reaching your goals.