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Vital Rules of Vision, Strategy & Tactics


Vision unifies, unites and excites a workplace; it gives people a greater sense of purpose and can transform jobs into campaigns and causes. But while vision is important, the strategy and its execution is where the money’s at. In fact, vision without strategy and execution is hallucination. To add perspective to key aspects of vision, strategy and tactics, I’m listing a number of basic principles in this regard; essential tenets I have shared with attendees for the past dozen years at my annual, year-end Strategy Summit workshop:

  • Vision is “where”, strategy is “what”, tactics are “how”. Vision defines where you’re going; strategy defines what you’ll do to get there; tactics determine how you’ll implement the strategy.


  • A great dream with the wrong team is a nightmare. Without the right people, in the right places, who consistently do the right things, your vision isn’t going to happen. In fact, if you’re at a point where you dream is bigger than your team you must either give up the dream or grow up the team; get people better or get better people.


  • Vision must start with the leadership of an organization. The leader’s job is to see farther, sooner and more than his or her people. While you can delegate many things for your organization, vision isn’t one of them.


  • Your vision objectives should require a stretch. If a vision is either too high or too low, people will mentally check out of it. Thus, it must hit the “sweet spot”. The sweet spot is that point where you believe in your heart it can be reached, but you know you won’t get there with a business as usual approach. An effective vision requires: change, risk, decisions to be made, discretionary effort and an exodus from comfort zones.


  • Vision must be communicated constantly to be credible. Without continual updates, reviews, celebrations of achievements and visibility vision is reduced to the latest management whim or flavor-of-the-month.


  • Your culture must align with and support vision. If you don’t have the right foundation of values, standards, competencies and right people within your culture your vision will fail. Culture is your foundation; no builder or leader can erect a significant structure on a foundation filled with cracks or holes, or that has been built on sand.


  • Strategy must be simple. If you can’t articulate it, you sure can’t execute it. Vince Lombardi spoke well when he declared, “It’s hard to be aggressive when you’re confused.”


  • Strategies must be flexible: Lock like a laser on your vision, but don’t become attached to how you get there. Stay focused without losing flexibility. Don’t fall in love with your plan! Napoleon was right when he famously observed that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.


  • Strategies should play to your strengths; they should build on and leverage your corporate core competencies, and create greater differentiation between you and your competitors.


  • Strategies should attack centers of gravity; high leverage targets. The common tendency is to do what’s easy, what won’t be resisted, what’s cheap, pleasant or popular; what’s essential is that you do what matters.


  • Strategies should attack multiple centers of gravity simultaneously. This counterintuitive approach ensures that the status quo is adequately affected and less likely to reestablish itself and reverse your progress because you didn’t go far enough, fast enough to anchor change in your culture.


  • Strategies must be implemented at an acceptable rate of velocity, as multiple actions leveraged against high leverage targets, reduce the duration of effort.


  • Tactics win battles, strategies win wars. Consider this contrast; Spiffs are a tactic, whereas a comprehensive hiring process is strategic. Tactics like increasing spiffs can generate quick, short- term results, but may also tempt you to depend on them too heavily when attempting to increase future performance. A long term strategy would be to develop an effective recruiting and hiring process and bring people on board you don’t need to continually bribe to do their jobs.


  • Consistency is a key to effective tactical execution. You cannot hope to reach your vision by doing what’s right and effective only occasionally, on the good days, or only when you feel like it. It’s the consistency in execution that will separate the good from the great in any endeavor.


  • Beware of tactical struggles. Doing more of the same thing harder, longer and faster and not getting a different result indicates you’re locked in a tactical struggle; in this case you must step back, reevaluate your plan, and change your strategy.


Closing thought: a bold vision will flush out those on your team who’ve just been along for the ride. In fact, whenever you set the bar high winners will love it and losers will leave it; either way you win. Effective leaders resolve not to waste their energy smacking people in the heads with bats and dragging them around the bases.