In part, it’s because “strategy” sounds important. We beat the hell out of the strategic drum all the time. You need to have a strategy. Strategy is everything. Strategy is the holy grail, the rest is just pieces and disparate tactics.
In part, it’s also because strategy is important. Having a guiding direction that aligns and unifies all your separate initiatives is a must if you don’t want the wheels to come off halfway down the road.
So is it really any wonder that people want to be seen as strategic thinkers?
But it’s also okay to be the person who does something that isn’t strategy development. Because we need you now as much as we ever have.
It’s okay to be the builder instead of the architect. The cook or the outstanding server instead of the master chef. The navigator and the guide instead of the map-maker.
As our work and businesses evolve, there is a critical need for people who can understand the vision and strategy as presented to them, but who are uniquely qualified and enthusiastic about putting all the pieces together to actually make the thing work.
I don’t believe that either ideas or execution are more intrinsically valuable, though some would debate me on that. They’re symbiotic, because neither really survives without the other, and their individual merit is exponentially increased when both work together.
But in that symbiotic relationship, we need practitioners on all sides.
Not everyone needs to conceptualize the big picture. Not everyone needs to be able to envision the future. In fact, in order for the very best strategic thinkers to actually see their visions become reality and do what they do, they absolutely must have the very best navigators on their side that can put the freaking boat in the water and sail somewhere.
Make no mistake: the choice here isn’t between “grunt” work and “sophisticated” work. The point is that we need to rethink our value judgments around the varied and distinct contributions that people make within an organization and what role they play.
The people that have a talent for assimilating, processing, and methodically implementing ideas, programs and strategies and who can then iterate on that building over time to improve it and make it better?
That is critical work. And it’s something we are going to need most of all while we are kicking the tires of everything from new marketing models to entire new business structures and outcomes.
The best person to realize a strategy is often not the person who created it, and vice versa.
We have think of new lenses for how we view our individual work and contributions.
We need to recognize that creation, improvement, innovation, and evolution are all ecosystems that require many different contributions from many different people in order to thrive.
So it’s okay not to be a “strategist” on your business card. In fact, that might not be at all what we need from you.
Your brilliance might be in taking a strategy and actually making it functional in the real world (trust me when I tell you that most ‘strategies’, when put on paper, aren’t viable for a business that functions in reality). It might be in translating programs into measurable objectives and developing accountability programs to keep them on track. It might be gathering and analyzing the data upon which other people need to make decisions.
Strategy is important, yes. But it’s hardly the only thing. And as the walls come tumbling down between our skills and our roles, our departments and business units, our company and our customers and partners, we’re going to need all hands on deck to make it work in a multitude of ways.
Do you really know and understand the value you bring to your organization or clients? Is it really strategy, or is it something else?
Are you sure?