09 February 2006

Strategy First...Always

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before the defeat." Sun Tzu, The Art of War

There was a time, not so long ago, when the business world was abuzz with the teachings of the legendary Sun Tzu. Through his writings, dating from 2,500 years ago, a whole cottage industry of war-related themes were applied to the corporate world, from von Clausewitz, Napoleon and Attila the Hun to Special Forces and samurai.

Despite all that war-mongering literature, the corporate world is not really a battlefield and the martial spirit of the past 40 years has given way to a more holistic view, encompassing human nature's softer sides with practical hard-core realities based on expanding metrics.

But Sun Tzu's original observation remains true: Strategy alone will lead to victory, but tactics without strategy are doomed to fail.

Is The Jenius advocating strategy--the mental side of execution--over the more forceful and specific actions espoused by the word "tactics"? You betcha. (A lengthier discussion of what strategy is/means can be found here; one on tactics can be found here.

Why? Why make action subordinate to thought (so to speak)? Because strategy--direction--is ultimately more important than processes. To use an analogy: The Jenius wants to make the trip from San Juan to Moscow. If He chooses the right direction and sticks to it, He will eventually arrive in Moscow, simply by switching conveyances--tactics--along the way. If by contrast He chooses to use a sports car from San Juan to make the trip faster, He will soon discover that sports cars and salt water don't go well together.

Simplistic? Certainly, but the point is that with a proper strategy, effective tactics will emerge, but no amount of clever, inspired and/or powerful tactics will lead to a successful conclusion unless a coherent direction is maintained.

Look around you. Notice how people, organizations, the government, act in a frenzy of activity, but achieve very little. People without goals are merely flailing away at life. Companies without a solid business plan are simply identifying opportunities for their competitors, who will swoop in and pluck them. And Our government is a hodge-podge of conflicting actions and ideas simply because the concept of one coherent strategy is anathema to The Fools.

"When you don't know where you're going, any road will lead you there" appears in the epitome of books about dizzy behavior, Alice in Wonderland. Business and Life may not really be battlegrounds, but they are spheres where winning and losing, achievement and failure, are a constant reality. It isn't what you do so much as where you're going that often, if not always, determines the difference between reaching the pinnacle of success or dwelling in a valley of defeat.

Begin with the strategy; a plan, direction or roadmap with a destination. Then use your imagination, energy and tenacity to discover ways to overcome, avoid or bypass the obstacles you will find. The saddest lives are those that were filled with whirlwind struggles, the chaotic daily frenzy of actions taken in isolation from each other, desperately trying to grasp mirages that were never goals, and have ended in exhaustion, a slumping into death like peace after a storm.

Seek peace--fulfillment--in a life led with strategy, one led with purpose. It makes all the difference in the world.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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