Strategy vs Tactics

In the worlds I inhabit, I am noticing an increasing lack of attention being paid to strategy. Whether it be in business, or in politics, or in personal lives, where people are moving from day to day with little focus on options beyond the next few weeks or months. Tactics have become extremely trendy, while strategy is somehow seen as unattainable, esoteric, obtuse or in plain language “a waste of time”.

Why?

A couple of theories:

Younger people: Rushing to embrace the nu nu instant world of the internet and short attention spans, are unable to expand their day to day life to adhere to “goal making” and other “long term”, “esoteric” topics. Alternatively, as Hugh Mackay says, people of 30 and under have been raised in a generation of immense change: economic recession, economic boom, technological change, internet revolution, economic paradigm shift, globalisation, the internet, etc. There is so much change and it occurs so quickly that people are reluctant to commit to anything for fear it may become obsolete – hence his term, “The Options Generation”.

Or is it something else – the labour shortages in Australia are leading to a general lack of brains in management? The thought economy is largely populated by people who haven’t an original thought?

Maybe it’s people who are time poor: Too much time working IN the business and not enough time working ON the business. I liked the expression I heard from the Director of Marketing of National Foods, “our people used to have a lot of headroom, now much less so. Headroom is the 10% of work time which accounts for 90% of all good ideas”. Is there less headroom in business? Are businesses demanding much more, a false economy in terms of increased sales, accountability and billable hours whilst simultaneously ignoring the longer term planning and frameworks?

Or might it be risk aversion: Nobody wants to pin their hat on a strategy and tactics to back up that strategy in case they chose wrong and someone holds them to account. Again I talk about my massive frustration at the stale and dull state of general entertainment and advertising (anyone watched free to air TV lately?).

Sun Tzu, military strategist and all round good guy, write in his magnum opus “The Art of War”, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”.

Why aren’t people BRAVE enough to just say: “let’s look at a two, five or ten year vision of where we are going to be”? Some scenario planning, some goals, some strategy. It might just help even out the fluctuations and we might all be better off because of it…

Discuss.

Constantine Frantzeskos

2 Comments

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  • Conno,
    Today I spent a fair amount of time going through your site and reading your blog entries.

    Your entry on strategy and tactics caught my eye and interest. Although largely unqualified to answer your question, I can offer you this in the way of opinion: Strategy and tactics need be translated into man hours and resources and weighted against outcome. You will find that industry has changed in Australia in the last 10 years to accomodate more and more people between management and floor labour. Who pays for all that? The consumer and the great unwashed who remain at the bottom.

    You cannot compare war and business. Although many Gordon Gekko aspirants would like to view one and the other as the same, war leaves a destroyed landscape and good -ethical!?- business leaves every end tied up. Bad business, where unilateral victory is the only acceptable outcome, is reminiscant of war.

    Corporations operate on the premise that you are only as good as the amount of arse you kiss; that you are a pliable resource that can be moulded into the needs of the company with disregard to personal attributes. People are encouraged to “network” and “discuss” and other faggoty ways to come up with ideas. These are environments that largely suit women. The only place a man has in business is at the very top or at the very bottom. In any business there are a finite number of ideas that can ever be plausible and people in boardrooms and around photocopiers know this; they fuck around with this for an hour and a half a day and spend the rest of the day wondering how they can eat/drink/gossip/surf porn/go to footy/get a root.

    Our western economy requires us to do things very expensively to remain in business. A PC on every desk and the multitude of communications devices have only served the purpose of creating a new industry and reinforcing the giants. Layers upon layers of workers are only there as redunduncy to each other; only there so one can be covered when he’s away. Offices are paper playgrounds where business’ inherent distrust is only ever solved by electronic copies and dupli- triplicates.

    So what do you want the office monkeys to do? Solve the next ten years worth of problems in one week? They’ll be out of work then. So stall, stall brother, that’s the way the world works. All office workers know they’re not really working…work is all done by the blue collars. They’re just fuckin’ around the campus common room, effectively for life.

    If you’re with the monkeys, you just have to play along. If you’re above the monkeys you have to make sure they either:
    a) Fear you. If they fear you, they’ll put in more than the bare minimum. For that you hire women or pussies.

    b) Trust you. You have to spin shit to the masses and buy their loyalty with tokens, without them ever realising they can make more if they just steal stationery/ sell corporate secrets/ refer customers to your competitors.

    Truth and integrity and subsequently efficient productivity happen where there is an existing channel or complete trust. Complete trust only ever occurs like certain heavy elements: It is forged in extreme pressure and lasts a blink of an eye. You need therefore to create appropriate channels. Think of it this way: You have a team whose goal is to catch rain falling from the sky. They could go outside and try catching it with their hands (cheap but ineffective), they could go outside and catch it in pots and pans (low cost, more effective) or you could hook up the drainpipe from your gutters (high cost, very effective). People are generally inclined to do the least that they have to. In the end everyone does question their motivation to offer more.

    The above rule does have its exceptions though. The entire computer age came about because of the ego-pride driven thirst for knowledge by computer geeks. All they have given the world came about because they slaved away on their computers and shared it with one another with hobby-like enthusiasm. Software companies hold weekend meets that place 500 computer enthusiasts in a hall and offer prizes to whoever can find a problem or repair a problem with their product. The people that take part do it for bragging rights, rather than for monetary gain.

    To further answer your question, why is there a lack of strategy? Have you noticed how we have become more undisciplined in our lives, how there are no more barriers or taboos? How friends come and go? How we buy and throw away…everything? Do you know why this is? Erratic, fast and reckless lives sell more alcohol, more phone credit, more clothes. Unfulfilled lives require new shoes, expensive haircuts and larger television screens. Bigger egos means larger houses and flashier cars. Conno, the people who are able to effect change, are the ones most unlikely to do so. If you are educated and rich, you can either stay that way by taking advantage of the masses or educate them to not need the crap you are trying to peddle to them. Then you become poor and have no rich friends.

    Money is the most potent of weapons. It makes people do or persuade others to do things that over time become more tolerated to the point of acceptable. Businesses sell products only if the circumstances are right. Social instability and lack of direction in life (read: strategy) are social phenomena that may be created as an environment to sell more product.

    Make the choice: You are either a man of letters and you are there to better the world you live in. You are “your brother’s keeper”, righteous and humble before God. Or you are a man of numbers. Nothing stands in your way of acquiring more and more. You are setting yourself up for a big surprise when you are a feeble rich old man who poos in his pants and is being hawked over by younger versions of you.

    Ready to pick at your carcass.

    Paul Karagiannis

    Apostolos Karagianni 14 years ago


  • Paul, thanks for the comment. In essence, I understand what you are saying, and agreeing – all of the things you have mentioned are FALSE ECONOMIES, exactly what I am railing against.

    My belief is that too many people in business make decisions based on the short term, on an ability to reflect well in the short term, to tactically manoeuvre rather than the long term interests of their business, or their personal lives and so on.

    To make the world a better place to live in is purely subjective – we can only work with the skills and talents God gave us, but we must make the most of them. We cannot waste those things we have been blessed to hold.

    One area I must disagree with you – creative destruction, that most Austrian of Economic thoughts, celebrates capitalism as a means to rejuvenate and improve our outcomes. The only thing that stops you from acquiring more and more is competition from others. And good luck to them. If they want better haircuts and cars – then they deserve it. It keeps hairdressers, shampoo makers, production workers and mechanics in jobs too.

    The idea that there will be a couple of all encompassing capitalists or companies around, owning everything, is simply not possible. We’re only a couple of Googles away from the world turning upside-down.

    That is the beauty of capitalism.

    Conno 14 years ago


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