Friday, 3 April 2009

The First Strategic Principle

Amazing, I don't know why I have not posted about this before, especially when I'm looking for things to post about.

This principle relates to the below diagram, and really revolves around the simple idea that as an entrepreneur, business owner, manager, consultant and even in career planning you cannot think or plan strategically if you do not create a gap from day to day operational activities.

The arrow on the right with the black ‘X’ is what I often refer to as the 'Gravity of Operations'. If you operate your group, career or life in this way you will only ever focus on day to day issues, crisis or catastrophe.

Where as, if you structure your group, or even your week to allow you to think in the Strategic-Tactical space (ST) or the Tactical-Operational (TO) space you will have considerably more success.

I observe people operating to the right of this model on a daily basis; in fact it is a conscious effort to keep your-self out of it. I am guilty of operating this way myself. Some immediate examples that come to mind are:

1. A friend running his own business gets tied up in cutting code and forgets to thing about where his business is going?
2. An Operations centre attempting to build enterprise solutions
3. An executive manager attending operational meetings yet failing to manage his calendar (tactics)
4. Managing my own career, I think my output will speak for itself, therefore I do forward think enough, subsequently getting frustrated when my career fills halted.

Gravity of operations is not the only consideration - I have seen groups focus on strategy to the exclusion of operations, which subsequently resulted in a lot of operational gravitas that eradicated any hope of Strategic thinking.

All these examples aside, the key message for a manager of any sort is every group you manage needs to work out how to manage the three strategic horizons. The time span of these horizons are Operational now, Tactical later (anything from the next week, month or quarter) and Strategic six months plus.

The practical application of the STO model (this is how I refer to it, improvement suggestions are welcome) will have the manager focusing on Strategic and tactical needs of the group. Working with their direct reports to develop the tactical plans, with which they will drive the operational considerations of the group.

People will argue that this is not achievable, or pragmatic for all sorts of reasons. That's OK. Let’s say you are a one man band or even planning your career. This is cool, just don't forget to get out of operations occasionally to think strategically and progress your tactical plans.

Please be aware, as a manager, just following this principle will not be enough, management skills such as delegation, 1 to 1's, feedback and coaching will be critical. (Manager Tools covers this in 'the management trinity' podcasts)

As stated at the start of this post, this model can be used in many contexts ranging from your personal management practices, consulting, problem remediation and even organisational design. I have not described the application to this scenario’s here. I’d encourage you to give it a go sometime, it’s simple to draw and can open up a log jammed conversation in an instance.

Hope you find this of interest, let me know in e-mail or comments if you do.



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