Is doing what you do getting you what you really want?

bumpercars with notationsStart-ups are, in many ways, a lot easier than leading a seasoned company or organization. Once systems, methods, and procedures are in place they can become part of the corporate identity. Indeed, they become you and you become identified as them. If they work, okay. If they move your department, company, or organization toward your vision, fine.

But, when was the last time anyone checked to see if that was so. Forms, I mean paper forms or computer resident ones that need to be completed, can become the reason we do what we do. But there is one question that always must be asked…and answered.

Is doing what you do getting you what you really want?

And how do you know if your answer is correct?

This is where the roles of leader sharply contrast with that of manager. Yes, I know that managers lead or at least they should have at least the minimal skills for leading team workers, but by and large managers don’t lead, certainly not to the extent that leaders do. For weeks I’ve been writing about vision, about inspiration, direction, emphasis, values, and mission. It is the unique and rewarding realm of leadership to address those things, to articulate them and incarnate their presence throughout the company.

That’s why I said in the first paragraph that start-ups are easier. When everything is new, when there are no systems in place, you and your team of associates and managers can create them. But somewhere somehow in all you are doing, you need to know if what you do is getting you where you want to go.

There is a tyranny of systems that takes over. The very presence of forms and reports bring bondage. They must be completed. Numbers must be recorded. The act of action itself becomes its own validator. We do things so often for so long that we either lose sight of what they are supposed to accomplish and find the work itself to be its own criteria for success. But leaders can…and must…evaluate the numbers they so diligently collect and process.

In my now famous diagram (below), see how it plots out. Management typically oversees the implementation of strategy. Butbasic diagram leadership monitors all three – tactics which should support the strategy which should lead to the fulfillment of vision. There is a difference between monitoring and managing. Monitoring is to oversee and evaluate. Managing is to fine tune, repair, and keep running.

The evaluation loop must run continuously. Every action, every system, every procedure must be regularly and frankly evaluated. Managers strive for efficiency. Managers make sure things are done and that they are done correctly. Leaders ensure that first and foremost the correct things are done. Making good time is of little use if you’re on the work path. Your goal as leader is to insure efficiency AND effectiveness.

jet drill team with notationsNow for the hard part. I’ll be back on Thursday with another post. Between now and then, schedule time to inspect at least two systems in your organization. Evaluate their effectiveness in implementing strategy through appropriate tactics that move the organization along toward fulfillment of its vision and let managers report to you on their measure of efficiency. Then, decide what your response should be.

7 ways to know the difference between strategies and tactics

normandyThe vision: Liberate Europe, defeat Germany and Italy, then establish a new world order

The strategy: A cross-channel invasion followed by succeeding maneuvers to push the enemy back, destroy their ability and resolve to wage war, bring about their defeat. The strategy was called Operation Overlord.

The tactics: pre-assault aerial bombardment, land troops, fight the way off the beach, capture ports, establish supply lines and methods, secure beachhead, act rather than react.

Vision ->Strategy ->Tactics or, as it works out in real life Tactics implement the strategy that was carefully planned to deliver the vision.

Operation Overlord began 70 years ago tomorrow, June 6, 1944, with Operation Neptune which was the Normandy landings. The overall strategy was logically assembled of several smaller strategies which were in turn implemented by boots on the ground, planes in the air, and ships in the water.

Sometimes used interchangeably in conversation, strategy and tactics are not the same. To make it easier to define, think of strategy as something that happens with the head while tactics happen with the hands.

Bosses think, staff act. Managers and leaders consider, ponder, and create ideas, employees and associates build, assemble, and enact.

Here’s how strategy and tactics fit together:

strategy tactics chart

The magic word – planning

Abracadabra_fullWhat’s the magic word?

The guest speaker was seated on the stage, ready to deliver his keynote address. On his right sat the coordinator of the event, the person responsible for pulling all the many strands together to create a worthwhile encounter for speakers and participants alike. On his left sat one of the other speakers, a man who was known for his mystical, creative nature.

For several minutes the guest speaker engaged in close conversation with the coordinator who, without complaining, detailed the challenges he’d faced as administrator. He listed the many decisions to be made, the many components to secure, the many people to manage. As he concluded, the keynote speaker turned to the man on his left, the mystical sort of fellow.

“Isn’t this just wonderful,” he said, “how these things just magically come together.”

Two entirely different perspectives, one from a leader and manager, the other from, well, from someone who obviously is not a manager or leader.

All who lead, all who work in the trenches, wish there was a magic word, an abracadabra sort of word we could pronounce that would take what we’ve spoken and make it a reality.

The etymology of “abracadabra” is by no means precise, but in the Hebrew rendition of the word, it means “it came to pass as it was spoken.” The Aramaic root is quite similar. So, for the purposes of the topic under discussion today, something in that general meaning will do.

I’ve been writing and emphasizing the leader’s role in defining and articulating vision for the group. It is incumbent upon the person in charge to speak forth what the future will be like. This is the very incarnation of “vision.”

But there is no magic work to suddenly and effortlessly make it “come to pass as it is spoken.”


But there is a magic word to make it happen; one word that will indeed make your vision a reality.

That word is “planning.”

The first in the POTCC mantra – Plan, Organize, Train, Control, Coordinate – planning is the one thing that keeps a vision from being nothing more than a fantasy.

I could compose my own definition of the word, but the one offered by the works very well.

“A basic management function involving formulation of one or more detailed plans to achieve optimum balance of needs or demands with the available resources. The planning process (1) identifies the goals or objectives to be achieved, (2) formulates strategies to achieve them, (3) arranges or creates the means required, and (4) implements, directs, and monitors all steps in their proper sequence.”

Remember this illustration?basic diagram management highlighted

See how the role of leadership takes on the requirements of management in the implementation of strategies and their supporting tactics in order to reach the vision. So it is with your job. Leaders lead but they manage too.

To believe that “these things just magically come together” is to lapse into the world of illusion, delusion, fantasy, and to be negligent of your duty and responsibility to yourself, your company, its customers and constituents. It won’t just magically occur because you say so.

But it will magically occur because you do so.

I once told my son that consultants and coaches are often regarded as wizards because they know things that mere mortals don’t. Often we look for magic formulas or shortcuts but in truth the “secrets” are as old as life itself. So, what are they? What do I need to do to make my vision a reality?

Those secrets come on my next post. Okay, maybe those secrets are not so secret, but they are processes most successful leaders do intuitively. I’ll list, define, explain, and review them next. See you Monday.

Leadership’s happy family – Vision, strategy, & tactics

basic diagramOne non-profit agency operating in Africa opened restaurants as part of its fund-raising strategy. A charitable organization working on the African continent developed a focused vision and successfully imprinted it upon those who worked in the organization both in the US and in Africa. The board and the organization’s director turned their attention to the pursuit of that vision. They developed comprehensive strategies for pursuing the vision and for funding the project.

Part of the fundraising strategy included operating businesses in the country within which they pursued their charitable work. Some of the businesses they opened are restaurants. The restaurants provided jobs for local residents and profits from them funded the administrative costs of the organization. More than one local business advisor suggested that the restaurants would produce higher revenues if they were less family-oriented (this means that “girls” would be hired to shill for drinks). Since the charity had already defined its values as being wholesome and family-focused, the suggestion was never even considered. It simply did not fit in any way so their response was an easy and simple no.

A defined and articulated vision builds the fences within which your company or organization can range.  Once the vision is in place…and not a moment before it is in place…strategies can be devised and tactics can be implemented.

The qualifier is NOT that it works. The qualifier is that it fits within your strategic plan’s criteria and that it should work.

But it might not. Do not allow you and your company or organization to become inextricably wedded to a tactic. They come and go, work then don’t. The vision is the only constant. Everything else is not.

Churches continually struggle with this but companies do too. We as leaders and managers are always in tension between the forms we’ve inherited and their present viability.

That’s why we need a continuously operating EVALUATION LOOP. See the accompanying diagram. This clearly illustrates the major distinction between leadership and management.

Leaders are primarily (but not exclusively) concerned with the overall direction of the nature of their business. Managers are primarily concerned with the implementation of the strategies and tactics. The best managers are also competent leaders in their own right because they know how to keep people enthused about the job and make productive corrections when they aren’t. The more effectively leaders can imprint vision upon their associates and employees, the more efficiently managers can implement strategies and tactics. Why? Because it makes sense.

The logical connection between all three – vision, strategies, and tactics – builds confidence within those you work with because they come to really believe that you know what you’re doing and you know how to make things happen. No one and I mean no one, responds well to confusion or disconnect between what you say and what you do.

So…don’t allow confusion to enter. Marry the vision to the strategy and raise the children (tactics) in a happy harmonious home.

Step 5 – develop and define tactics

basic diagram strategy tacticsBy now your vision should be defined, focused, and articulated. You should have enough confidence in it that you are able to promote it enthusiastically and unequivocally. Plus, your strategic plan should be taking shape. Based on the vision, your personal and corporate values, and shaped by the marketplace and your constituents, you will have developed an overall plan for reaching the vision.

But how does that happen in real life? What are you going to do today? Most of us have a slate of activities already. We will have inherited forms, systems, procedures, methodology, and products. we should also have inherited the founder’s sense of entrepreneurial adventure.

Sadly, as an organization ages, that sense of adaptability, innovation, and adventure is one of the first things to drop off. The vision first articulated by the founder(s) gave birth to a strategic plan which in turn spawned forms, systems, procedures, methodology, and products. Somewhere over time and somehow in our thinking, those forms, systems, procedures, methodology, and products grew in stature to become who we are as a company.

This is terribly wrong.

Tactics – forms, systems, procedures, methodology, and products – are a means to the end. They are not the purpose for which we exist…although too often we have made them thus. Tactics are:

The means by which a strategy is carried out; planned and ad hoc activities meant to deal with the demands of the moment, and to move from one milestone to other in pursuit of the overall goal(s). In an organization, strategy is decided by the board of directors, and tactics by the department heads for implementation by the junior officers and employees.

Tactics take advantage of PRESENT circumstances, exploit present conditions, and pursue opportunity. Sadly, here are five results that are too often realized:

First, because tactics are activities performed almost daily, we tend to measure progress in terms of the amounts of activities we’ve performed and efficiency with which we do them.

Second, they cloud the lack of real progress because we stay busy.

Third, they usually lose their effectiveness over time. Check out Geico’s “15 minutes or less” commercials and notice how they’ve changed them. They now acknowledge that “everybody knows that” and inject a humorous side to the conversation. Keeping things fresh is one of the biggest challenges.

Fourth, tactics can be worshipped aver everything else. We do them every day, we count them, report on them, laud them, track them, eulogize them, focus almost entirely upon them. They become the focal point of our existence. Notice my use of the expression “focal point.” What should be the focal point of our company or organization?

That’s right. The vision!

Instead it’s the tasks that fill the day which intrude upon the conscience and become objects of adulation and esteem.

Fifth, we can literally love them to death. We can be so enamored with our efficiency and quantitative measures that we neglect to determine if they are really getting us where we need to go. Read results one through four again.

So, what do we need to do? How do we need to respond? I’ll tell you on Thursday (and fill on those blank spots in the diagram).