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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 July 18, 2019

            How to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills For a Swift Career Switch

            How to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills For a Swift Career Switch

            Most people grow up with dreams to go to college and graduate with high-paying job offers waiting for them the week after graduation. Others may favor non-traditional career paths. But the desire is the same: to find a job we love where compensation is commensurate with experience.

            However, plans change. For instance, what started out as a dream to be a surgeon is cut short by a nasty injury and you’re debating how to transition into a new role. Or you might be facing being let go from your current employer and are anxious about “options out there.”

            Whatever the case may be, switching careers can be intentional or unintentional. What matters is that you’re well-prepared, and the only way to do so is to learn new skills — hone in on your transferable skills.

            Why Hone in on Your Transferable Skills?

            There are several reasons you need to develop these skills if you want to go far in life and your career. In a nutshell, honing in your your transferable skills can lead to:

            Better Job Offers

            Continuous assessment and improvement of your skills widens the pool of job offers for you to make selections from. You’re no longer tethered to one industry as you’re able to lead your career by design, not by default.

            People with transferable skills on a resume also open up opportunities for more potential employers.

            Increase in Pay and More Responsibilities

            You’ve heard the saying “with great power come great responsibility.” In your case, transferable skills make you more marketable to employers which could lead to pay raises.

            Although this isn’t an automatic process– you have to be proactive about what you want in the marketplace, there is a chance that these pay raises will come with change in titles and roles.

            A Shot at Entrepreneurship

            Yes, changing career paths also includes the possibility of working for yourself. With these skills and work experience, you could live anywhere in the world and design a life and career you want.

            We’ve talked about why you need to strengthen your transferable skills but what are some these skills, and how can you work on them?

            13 Tips to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills

            1. Update Your Resume

            You might be surprised to know this but yes, updating your resume is a skill. The very first thing you should do while thinking about switching careers is to highlight attributes that make you very desirable candidate to employers.

            Think about your volunteer experiences, freelance projects, and school projects. Although they might seem insignificant, they demonstrate your ability to deliver results that several companies are looking for.

            While you might have held several positions since college, switching careers will require you to have a different type of resume.

            There are three different types of resumes: functional, chronological, and a combination resume. However, if you are looking to switch careers you’ll want to have a functional resume. A functional resume is strengths-based that emphasizes skills that are transferable rather than a collection of dates and job titles.

            2. Brush up on Your Communication Skills

            Every attempt to get ahead in business and in life starts with the need to communicate effectively. Whether it is interpersonal, intercultural, or multi-generational, the ability to be seen and heard while respecting the boundaries of work relationship matters.

            That’s why it’s one of the top skills you need to master. Strong communication skills allows you to effectively tailor your messages to specific audiences, which will make you a stronger asset to any organization.

            To hone this skill:

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            Pay attention to your listening skills. To communicate effectively, you need to first learn how to understand others.

            Your ability to decode overt and implied messages, no matter how nuanced they are, is key to knowing how to foster deep relationships with others.

            This article can also give you effective ways to enhance your communication skills:

            How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

            3. Learn Technical (or Business) Writing

            Another form of communication, writing, is a skill that can take you anywhere.

            Companies communicate a lot through written memos, emails, newsletters, and other audio-visual means. But at the crux of this all is someone or some people who are tasked with translating the organization’s vision into statements anyone can understand.

            To hone this skill:

            Consider taking some free or paid classes online. You can accomplish this through several community colleges or online platforms like Lynda, Udemy or edX .

            4. Practice Public Speaking and Presentation Skills

            No matter how intelligent you are, no one will take you seriously if you’re unable to pull off a decent level of persuasion through presentation skills.

            Most presentation can be done through either electronic devices or require your physical presence. Your chosen career may require you to be in front of several hundreds of people or you could be charged with developing materials for presentation.

            To hone this skill:

            Volunteer to lead projects that give you some responsibility for putting together presentations.

            Also, try taking courses that will improve your public speaking skills if you feel lacking.

            These tips on public speaking would be helpful too:

            The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

            5. Get Comfortable with Identifying Problems and Solutions

            Every organization has got its problems no matter how greener the grass is on the other side.

            How to hone this skill:

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            Practice being resourceful.

            Do you know where to find every company policy on the intranet in less than five minutes?

            Think about a time you noticed some inefficiency at work and proposed a solution. Think about instances where you lent your voice to a cause which resulted in improved processes for your department.

            No matter how small or inadequate you might feel, you’ve got some problem-solving skills that some organizations want.

            If you look for more ways to improve your problem solving skills, take a look at this article:

            6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills

            6. Recognize Your Team-Building Ability

            Your ability to smoothly switch careers also depends on how well you can energize your team, especially if you’re aiming for a leadership role. Unfortunately, team-building usually isn’t something you learn on the job in most careers unless you hold a managerial position.

            The good thing is that you possibly know one or two things about team-building. Think back to moments in college when you had group projects with colleagues and had to work with 3 to 4 other strangers for months. Were you able to get past your differences and disagreements to focus on the uniqueness of everyone at the table?

            Making a career switch might require that you work with multidisciplinary teams whether you have a deep knowledge of what the other team does or not. I can easily think of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and social workers working closely to achieve the goals in a patient’s care plan.

            How to hone this skill:

            Look for collaborative projects and team building activities that excite you and challenge yourself with new possibilities.

            Try some of these tactics to keep your team motivated as well:

            17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

            7. Lean into Your Leadership Skills

            Although similar to the previous point, leadership skills extend far beyond building teams, managing time sheets and correcting behavior.

            What I’m referring to here is your ability to develop a vision, believe in it, and inspire buy-in from everyone involved. This isn’t about knowing how to run a particular machine; it’s about how to lead a team of people with various backgrounds, experiences, and ideas of how things should be done.

            How to hone this skill:

            Although more complex than the rest, it all starts with an introspective look into your strengths and weaknesses. Then get a mentor or a coach who can bring out your leadership qualities so you can operate from a place of strength.

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            Learn more about the effective leadership types here:

            5 Types of Leadership that Help You Build a High Performance Team

            8. Improve Your Analytical Skills

            Are you good at taking large amount of data and interpreting them? Your skills could come in handy.

            Organizations are looking for people to make sense of the data around them, explain how it affects profitability, and make projections based on it. Best of all? You don’t need to be an accountant to be analytical.

            How to hone this skill:

            Try taking data interpretation classes online or at a community college. Learning Microsoft Excel or Access is also a plus. If you’re ambitious enough, you could consider getting additional certifications to up the ante.

            Take a look at these ways to help sharpen your analytical skills:

            What Are Analytical Skills and How to Strengthen Them For Success

            9. Don’t Discount Your Time Management and Prioritization Skills

            How good are you when it comes to deciding how important tasks are, organizing schedules, and coordinating plans?

            Should you be willing, there is a market waiting for you out there. Organizations and busy executives are always looking for talented individuals to outsource these tasks to.

            How to hone this skill:

            Although not everyone possesses secretarial superpowers, you can improve this skill by focusing on taking huge tasks and breaking them into smaller goals or steps in order to achieve a bigger goal.

            Here, you can learn to prioritize to achieve more:

            The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

            10. Embrace Your Creative and Critical Thinking Side

            Although it’s often believed that creativity is for the arts and right-brained people, I believe everyone is capable of being creative. In fact, most organizations recognize creativity as a vehicle that will drive successful inventions in the future.

            How to hone this skill:

            Try doing something fun. As simple as this sounds, you’d be surprised to learn how much. In fact, behavioral and learning scientist, Marily Oppezzo, says taking a walk might be all you need to get your creative juices flowing.[1]

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            Anyone can be creative, you just need the right way to train your brain:

            What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

            11. Don’t Stop Learning Tech Knowledge and Skills

            Being tech-savvy is a huge plus. If you have an affinity with computers, software applications and are abreast of technological improvements, it is a transferable skill that is worth highlighting.

            You don’t have to be a young college graduate with silicon valley dreams to work

            How to hone this skill:

            All you need is the determination and the readiness to learn. This article will give you some ideas on the types of skills to learn:

            How to Improve Your Computer Skills to Get Ahead in Your Career

            12. Build Networks and Relationships

            You aren’t free from networking. Not at the moment. With your goal to switch to a different career, your networking skills will come in handy.

            Fortunately for you, networking doesn’t have to be so hard.

            How to hone this skill:

            Attend conferences and job fairs. Chances are you already have people in your network you can move you closer to your dream career.

            To enhance your networking skills, take these steps:

            How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life

            Final Thoughts

            Although there are several people with the same qualification and degree(s) you possess, what ultimately determines hireability comes down to a myriad of things such as culture fit, how teachable you are, cultural sensitivity, inter-generational awareness, and your ability to navigate uncertainty.

            You have a chance to stand out by letting your dream companies know how these soft skills make you an invaluable asset, and how saying ‘YES’ to you is a win-win for both parties.

            Happy career switching!

            More Resources About Career Advancement

            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

            Reference

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