The Difference Between Strategy And Tactics

I spoke with a really frustrated financial advisor in San Diego the other week. She told me that she loved my talk (on the Experience Economy) because it made sense to her, that it aligned with what she wants to do and is trying to do in her own business and life.

She wanted to understand how to attract new customers to her business because she wasn’t having any success, even though she felt that she was doing everything right. She said she was motivated, organized with great systems in place, an office she was proud of, a “super super team” and that everyone was working really hard.

She went on to list all the things they were doing, and I will give her credit they were all great ideas. Still, something wasn’t working.

Her question: “How do I get people to pay attention to what we’re doing?”

I think all of us can relate to this question a little. We start to look at what we’re doing instead of what we’re thinking.

What we are doing – the actions we take – are the tactics that back up the strategy. What we’re thinking is our strategy. I told her that her problem isn’t the execution (the tactics); it’s the strategy, the idea in the first place.

The right strategy makes any execution work better. The right strategy eases the pressure to execute perfectly.

A blog written by me in the winter wouldn’t be complete without a ski analogy. Carving better turns is a tactic. Choosing the right run to be on in the first place is a strategy. Everyone skis better on a slope that is more appropriate to his or her ability.

When beating your head against the wall starts to get a little tired and you start to doubt yourself, or you feel like you’re working too hard for little or no results, it doesn’t mean you have to work harder or that there is something wrong with you – it means you need to shift your thinking and alter your strategy.

It takes a lot of courage to abandon your strategy, especially if you have gotten really good at the tactics. Tom and I are implementing a serious shift in our business strategy; a number of you have noticed and commented that we are doing things a little differently. We appreciate that, and there are more changes coming. Believe me, I’m sympathetic to how terrifying it is to shift strategy. My Lizard lurks.

The reason it takes guts and grit and faith to change your strategy is because often the tactics will change completely. Said another way, after the serious shift, how you work every day will be completely different to how you worked before. A new strategy is supported by a new plan, not the old plan.

This is precisely the reason that switching strategies is often such a good idea. Because everyone else, including your competition, is afraid too.

Shift. Seriously.



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