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Your Life Needs Strategy and Tactics, Just Like Any Games

Your Life Needs Strategy and Tactics, Just Like Any Games

Southwest Airlines has been around since 1966, and is generally considered one of the better airlines in the industry. While some airlines focus on big, potentially expensive amenities, Southwest focused its business model on cheaper flights and painless “commuter”-type flights for people who wanted to get from A to B with no fuss. Over time, Southwest’s business model has increasingly become the industry standard for airlines.[1]

Southwest’s broader strategy was cheaper, easier-to-get flights. But strategy is meaningless without tactics. (Some call this “execution.”)

To get cheaper flights, they reduced flight attendants, changed flight models, limited carry-on baggage, and even changed the process of boarding.

Strategy is the what part of thinking about organizational mission: long-term goals. Tactics are the how part: the best practices, specific plans, milestones, resources, and generally how you’ll execute the overall strategy.

You need both in life.

The Art of War: Strategy vs Tactics

One of the most famous books ever written, The Art of War, has a quote along these lines:

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Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

That book was written more than 2,500 years ago. The context still applies, though. You need both strategy and tactics. You can’t just long-term plan, and you can’t just execute. Both ultimately end up nowhere.

    Strategy and tactics are all over the business world these days. New books on business strategy seemingly come out every day, and the overall “leadership industry” — often teaching executives how to think about strategy and tactics — is somewhere around $44 billion.[2]

    Think about some well-known strategies, for example:

    • Facebook wants to be immersive in people’s lives; they want to be the great connector of our time. That’s the broader strategy. One tactic was to acquire other platforms where people spend a lot of time, i.e. WhatsApp and Instagram.
    • Muji wants to make their products simple. Tactically, they only focus on one feature at a time, and their shops use a simple color tone in design.
    • Nintendo wants to design engaging games that are easy for anyone to pick up and play (strategy). This is why you see them focus more on progressive games instead of complicated role-play games.

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      Strategy Makes Things Clear

      The pros are that having a strategy sets a clear goal and makes it easier to align the efforts of different parties — because the shared goal is the strategy. This ideally creates more long-term stability.

      Unfortunately, strategy isn’t easy to measure because it’s long-term (most businesses focus short-term) and it combines a number of different tactics (cross-departmental measurement can be hard). Strategy is also less flexible and it’s harder to make big, strategic decisions and changes. It usually requires a lot of time and input from multiple people, which can slow down a business as it attempts to innovate.

        Tactics Make Things Concrete

        Essentially the reverse of the above — tactics are quick wins where results are often easy to see and track. There are less concerns about flexibility.

        But as noted in The Art of War, a focus solely on tactics lacks the bigger picture. It’s short-term and unstable, which can cause frustration. This is when you have a job where it seems like all you do is execute but you’re never sure what or why the outcome is.

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          When Strategy or Tactic Is Left Out

          Think of Apple, one of their initial strategies was to make computers portable and universal, which they largely achieved. One of the tactics over time was bringing phone weight down and making that portable, which led to the iPhone. Now the iPhone is on its 10th iteration, it’s essentially a portable computer that can perform lots of different functions, but Apple is having a mini-crisis of strategy. While they have lots of cash, the strategy needs to be updated. They can’t keep producing similar phone products. Their growth has stunted a bit because the tactics outpaced the strategy and the strategy isn’t updated.

          Now think of a personal example. Let’s say you were taking a test in high school and you knew the format would be lots of short questions and a few long ones. The short ones, in total points, are worth more. If you want a high score, your strategy might be to focus on the short ones (practice there and do them first on the actual test), and then do the long ones when time permits. That’s your strategy, and your tactic is doing the short questions first.

          If you had no strategy for this test, you’d go in blind without an idea how to approach the test. If you had no tactic, you’d spend your time in the wrong parts. Either way, you wouldn’t get the highest score.

          Making it Optimum: Strategy x Tactics

          Strategy and tactics together allows you to have long-term focus with short-term execution.

            You should use this dual approach regularly in daily life. If you’re trying to reach your target on closing more deals, your strategy can be to focus on high-spending groups. Your tactics would be to spend 80% of your time locating these high-spending groups and connecting with them — or calling the people who have connections with this group. You don’t focus on low-spending groups.

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            But how do you align strategy and tactics so you have both?

            First, you need to understand purpose.

            Sometimes our to-do lists get filled up with tasks that have no purpose. What are you achieving by carrying an action out? Is it helping you achieve your strategic outcome? Is it helping you achieve any of your goals? This component of a tactic serves two purposes:

            1. It ensures that every tactic helps you achieve your strategic outcome.
            2. It ensures you’re not wasting time on tasks that provide no return.

            Then you need a scheduling component.

            For example, many of us become beholden to our email. To avoid that, decide when and how often you’re going to process messages. Actions move you towards your goals, while scheduling ensures actions are executed. It also keeps you balanced and not as overwhelmed.

            Finally, you need to understand how measurable results work.

            When you complete something, can the result be measured? There’s usually no need to track these results meticulously for every task, but when you’re unsure whether a task is working for you or just wasting your time, measurement provides hard answers.

            To understand more about how strategy and tactics align and work together, check out this article: Tactics & Strategy: Do you know the difference?

            Featured photo credit: 3plusplus via 3plusplus.net

            Reference

            More by this author

            Leon Ho

            Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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            Last Updated on September 17, 2019

            How to Delegate Work Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide)

            How to Delegate Work Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide)

            All managers and leaders must master the art of delegation. Understanding how and when to allocate responsibility to others is essential in maintaining a high level of productivity, both on a personal and organizational level. Knowing how to delegate is also essential for an effective leadership.

            To learn how to delegate is to build a cohesive and effective team who can meet deadlines. Moreover, knowing when and how to delegate work will reduce your workload, thus improving your wellbeing at work and boosting your job satisfaction. Unfortunately, many leaders are unsure how to delegate properly or are hesitant to do so.

            In this guide, you will discover what delegation really entails, how it benefits your team, and how to delegate work effectively.

            The Importance of Delegation

            An effective leader knows how to delegate. When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more on a daily basis. Effective delegation also promotes productivity within a team by drawing on the existing skill set of its members and allowing them to develop new knowledge and competencies along the way. The result is a more flexible team that can share roles when the need arises.[1]

            When you are willing to delegate, you are promoting an atmosphere of confidence and trust. Your actions send a clear signal: as a leader, you trust your subordinates to achieve desired outcomes. As a result, they will come to think of you as a likeable and efficient leader who respects their skills and needs.

            Delegation isn’t about barking orders and hoping that your staff falls in line. A manager’s job is to get the very best from those under their supervision and in doing so, maximizing productivity and profit.[2]

            Here’s an example of bad delegation:

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              Careful delegation helps to identify and capitalize on the unique strengths and weaknesses of the team members. Delegation also boosts employees’ engagement as it proves that the managers are interested in drawing on their talents.[3]

              The Fear of Delegating Tasks

              Delegation boosts productivity, but not all managers are willing or able to delegate.[4] Why? Here’re some common reasons:[5]

              • They may resent the idea that someone else may get the credit for a project.
              • They may be willing to delegate in principle but are afraid their team won’t be able to handle an increased degree of responsibility.
              • They may suspect that their staff is already overworked, and feel reluctant to increase their burden.
              • They may suspect that it’s simpler and quicker just to do a task themselves.
              • They dislike the idea of letting go of tasks they enjoy doing.
              • They fear that if they delegate responsibility, their own manager will conclude that they can’t handle their workload.

              Delegation vs Allocation

              Most people think that delegation and allocation are synonymous, but there is an important distinction to be made between the two.[6]

              When you allocate a task, you are merely instructing a subordinate to carry out a specific action. You tell them what to do, and they do it–it’s that simple. On the other hand, delegation involves transferring some of your own work to another person. They do not just receive a set of instructions. Rather, they are placed in a role that requires that they make decisions and are held accountable for outcomes.[7]

              How to Delegate Work Effectively (A Step-By-Step Guide)

              So what’s the best way to delegate work so you can fight the fear of delegation, build an efficient team and work faster? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

              1. Know When to Delegate

              By understanding how much control you need to maintain over a situation, you can determine the best strategy for empowering workers. There are 7 levels of delegation that offer workers different degrees of responsibility.

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              This brief video explains these levels and offers examples of when it’s appropriate to use each one:

              Delegation occurs along a spectrum. The lowest level of delegation happens when you tell other people what to do. It offers little opportunity for employees to try new approaches. The most empowering form of delegation occurs when you are able to give up most of your control over the project to the employee.

              Knowing how to delegate work helps you understand how to connect people with tasks that make the best use of their talents. When done properly, it ensures that you will get the best end-result.[8]

              When you’re deciding how to delegate work, ask the following questions:

              • Do you have to be in charge of this task, or can someone else pull it off?
              • Does this require your attention to be successful?
              • Will this work help an employee develop their skills?
              • Do you have time to teach someone how to do this job?
              • Do you expect tasks of this nature to recur in the future?

              2. Identify the Best Person for the Job

              You have to pass the torch to the right team member for delegation to work. Your goal is to create a situation in which you, your company, and the employee have a positive experience.

              Think about team members’ skills, willingness to learn, and their working styles and interests. They’ll be able to carry out the work more effectively if they’re capable, coachable, and interested. When possible, give an employee a chance to play to their strengths.

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              Inexperienced workers may need more guidance than seasoned veterans. If you don’t have the time to set the newer employee up for success, it’s not fair to delegate to them.

              You also have to consider how busy your employees are. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm someone by giving them too many responsibilities.

              3. Tell and Sell to Get the Member Buy-In

              After you’ve found the perfect person for the job, you still have to get them to take on the new responsibility. Let them know why you chose them for the job. [9] When you show others that you support their growth, it builds a culture of trust. Employees who see delegated tasks as opportunities are more likely to be invested in the outcome.

              When you’re working with newer employees, express your willingness to provide ongoing support and feedback. For seasoned employees, take their thoughts and experiences into account.

              4. Be Clear and Specific About the Work

              It’s critical to explain to employees why the project is necessary, what you expect of them, and when it’s due.[10] If they know what you expect, they’ll be more likely to deliver.

              By setting clear expectations, you help them plan how to carry out the task. Set up project milestones so that you can check progress without micromanaging. If your employee has trouble meeting a milestone, they still have time to course correct before the final product is due.

              This type of accountability is commonly used in universities. If students only know the due date and basic requirements for completing major research papers, they might put off the work until the eleventh hour. Many programs require students to meet with advisers weekly to get guidance, address structure, and work out kinks in their methods in advance of deadlines. These measures set students up to succeed while giving them the space to produce great work.

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              5. Support Your Employees

              To see the best possible outcomes of delegating, your subordinates need resources and support from you. Connect them with training and materials to develop skillsets they don’t already have.[11] It may take more time up front to make resources available, but you’ll save time by having the work done correctly. For recurring tasks, this training pays off repeatedly.

              Sometimes employees need a help to see what they’re doing well and how they can improve. Giving and receiving feedback is an essential part of delegation. This is also a good way to monitor the delegated tasks as a leader. While you can keep track of the progress of the tasks, you are not micro-managing the employees.

              Throughout the project, periodically ask your employees if they need support or clarification. Make it clear that you trust them to do the work, and you want to create a space for them to ask questions and offer feedback. This feedback will help you refine the way you delegate work.

              6. Show Your Appreciation

              During periodic check-ins, recognize any wins that you’ve seen on the project so far. Acknowledge that your employees are making progress toward the objective. The Progress Principle lays out how important it is to celebrate small wins to keep employees motivated.[12] Workers will be more effective and dedicated if they know that you notice their efforts.

              Recognizing employees when they do well helps them understand the quality of work you expect. It makes them more likely to want to work with you again on future projects.

              Bottom Line

              Now that you know exactly what delegation means and the techniques to delegate work efficiently, you are in a great position to streamline your tasks and drive productivity in your team.

              To delegate is to grant autonomy and authority to someone else, thus lightening your own workload and building a well-rounded, well-utilized team.

              Delegation might seem complicated or scary, but it gets much easier with time. Start small by delegating a couple of decisions to members of your team over the next week or two.

              More About Delegation

              Featured photo credit: Freepik via freepik.com

              Reference

              [1] BOS Staffing: 5 Benefits Of Delegation – Empower Your Team
              [2] Brian Tracy International: How to Delegate The Right Tasks To The Right People: Effective Management Skills For Leadership Success
              [3] MindTools: Successful Delegation: Using The Power Of Other People’s Help
              [4] Fast Company: The Three Most Common Fears About Delegation: Debunked
              [5] Leadership Skills Training: Delegation
              [6] Abhinav Jain: Delegation of work vs Allocation of work
              [7] Anthony Donovan: Management Training: Delegating Effectively
              [8] Management 3.0: Practice: Delegation Board
              [9] Focus: The Creativity and Productivity Blog: A Guide to Delegating Tasks Effectively
              [10] Inc.: 6 Ways to Delegate More Effectively
              [11] The Muse: The 10 Rules of Successful Delegation
              [12] Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer: The Progress Principle

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