Strategic vs. Tactical 80/20 Rule

“Does this mean that I won’t be able to do….?” is a question I frequently get when I discuss strategy with people. They are usually worried about not doing what they have found interesting. When someone has to follow a new strategy they often mourn the loss of the familiar, that they have grown to love doing.

This need not be a major issue for two reasons:

  1. Most people recognize that the strategy is really the best thing to do, despite the fact that they have been putting off doing it. Most people also get a lot of job satisfaction from knowing that they are doing the best job that they can do. If people start to do the best thing (in alignment with a new strategy) over time they will appreciate this and grow to love doing it the way that they loved doing what they used to do.
  2. There is always room for non-strategic work, otherwise called tactical work. Personally, I’ve always viewed there to be a 80 / 20 rule for strategic vs. tactical.

As an example of the latter point, my job is to lead a certain area of work. We have well over a 1000 people who actually implement one of the things that I lead. It would not be the best use of my time to try and do what they do because I am only one person, and they are 1000. The strategic part of my job is to figure out the best way of these 1000 people being led to provide the optimal end result. The trouble is that the reason I have ended up leading this team is because I have a passion for doing what they do, not for figuring out how to run a team. However, because I love to do what they do, I spend some time doing it personally as a single unit contributor. The important thing is that I still spend 80% of my time developing leadership of the 1000 people, and less than 20% trying to do their work myself.

Strategy does not mean that we stop everything. Strategy means that we spend the large majority of our effort pursuing the most important goal in the optimal fashion. This does leave room for doing something else for which you have a passion, or for learning to love doing what is most important in the best way :-)

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