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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 November 20, 2019

            How to Measure a Goal? (With Examples of Measurable Goals)

            How to Measure a Goal? (With Examples of Measurable Goals)

            Everyone sets goals. Whether they are daily goals like completing a project, personal aspirations like traveling the world, or even workplace targets, setting a goal isn’t enough to get you over the line unfortunately. This is why only eight percent of people achieve their goals.[1]

            So how do the high achievers do it?

            By setting measurable goals, keep track of them and progress towards these goals.

            To help you out, I’ve put together a simple guide on measuring goals. I’ll show you a SMART framework you can use to create measurable goals, and how you can track its progress.

            To begin, let me introduce you to the SMART acronym.

            What Is a Measurable SMART Goal?

            SMART stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. They help set clear intentions, this way, you can continue staying on course.

            When you’re writing a SMART Goal, you need to work through each of the terms in the acronym to ensure it’s realistic and achievable.

            It’ll help you set specific and challenging goals that eliminate and vagueness and guesswork. It’ll also have a clear deadline so you know when you need to complete it by.

            Here’s what SMART stand for:

            Specific

            Your goals need to be specific. Without specificity, your goal will feel much harder to complete and stick to.

            They should also have a specific outcome. Without the outcome, it will be hard to focus and stay on task with your goals.

            I can’t stress this enough. In fact, two researchers Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, found that when people set specific yet challenging goals, it led to increased performance 90 percent of the time.[2]

            Here’s an example of a specific goal:

            Increase sales by 10% in 90 days. 

            Measurable

            You need to be able to measure these goals.

            Examining a key metric and quantifying your goals will help track your progress. It will also identify the mark at which you’ve completed your task.

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            Measurable can mean many different things, but generally speaking, you want to be able to objectively measure success with a goal.

            Whether it’s via analytical data, performance measures, or direct revenue, ensure your goal is quantifiable.

            Achievable

            Why do you want to reach this goal? Is it important for you or your organization?

            Once you identify the key benefit, add that into your goal, so it helps your team members understand the importance of the goal and how it contributes to the bigger picture.

            Relevant

            Why do you want to reach this goal? Is it important for you or your organization?

            Once you identify the key benefit, add that into your goal so it helps your team members understand the importance of the goal and how it contributes to the bigger picture.

            Timely

            This is one of my favorite parts of SMART goals….setting the deadline.

            The timeframe will create a sense of urgency. It functions as a healthy tension that will springboard you to action.

            Examples of Measurable Goals

            Now that we know what a SMART goal is, it’s time to help you make your own SMART goal.

            Let’s start with the first step: specificity.

            Specific

            A specific goal should identify:

            • What’s the project or task at hand?
            • Who’s responsible for the task? If you’re breaking the task down, who is responsible for each section?
            • What steps do you need to do to reach your goal?

            Here’s a bad example:I want to have a better job.

            This example is poor because it’s not specific enough. Sure, it’s specific to your work, but it doesn’t explain whether you want a promotion, a raise, a career change, etc.

            What about your current job do you want to improve? Do you want to change companies? Or are you striving for more work-life balance? What does “better” really mean?

            Let’s transform this into a good example.

            I want to find a new role at a Fortune 500 company that improves my current salary and work-life balance.

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            If you’re not too sure what the specific outcome should be, you can use mindmaps to brainstorm all the possible options. Then choose a few or one from the mindmap.

            With the example above, to become a better growth marketer, I have to explore different learning options like online courses, blogs, books, or in-person courses before I made a decision.

            Measurable

            Goals need to be measurable in a way where you can present tangible, concrete evidence. You should be able to identify what you experience when reaching that goal.

            Ideally, you should go for a metric or quantity as quantifying goals makes it easier to track.

            Here’s a bad example:

            I will get a promotion at work for improving quality

            Here’s a good example:

            I am going to land a promotion to senior VP by improving my work quality. When I say work quality, I will measure this by projects completed, revenue earned, and success factors important to my superiors.

            If you’re having difficulty measuring your goals, you can use a goal tracking app. They’re a great way to measure your progress, especially if it’s time-based.

            In addition, I love to use the following strategy to keep myself accountable and ensure I’m hitting goals:

            Reminder emails.

            I schedule emails to myself asking for measurable data on my goals, and even CC others to hold me accountable.

            For example, if you work with a team, CC them on your email to keep yourself honest and on-track.

            Here are five methods you can use to measure your progress towards the goal:

            1. Keep a record – Have you recorded all your actions?
            2. Assess your numbers/evidence – Are you breaking your commitments?
            3. Create a checklist – Can you simplify your tasks?
            4. Stay on course – Are you moving forward with your plan smoothly?
            5. Rate your progress – Can you do better?

            Achievable

            When it comes to being able to achieve your goals, you should stick to Pareto’s principle. If you’re not too sure what it is, it’s the 80/20 rule.

            Don’t just attack and go for everything at once! Pick things that give you the most results. Then, work on the next objective or goal once you’ve completed your first ones.

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            Here’s a bad example:

            To get more work-life balance, I will examine all factors of my work and how to trim down the time I spend on them.

            Here’s a good example:

            This week I will record my time spent on projects to analyze the amount of revenue or success they generate. Projects that fall short of production will get less time and resources than others. 

            Relevant

            It’s always important to examine your goal to ensure it’s relevant and realistic to what you’re doing.

            This is where the bigger picture comes in.

            Here’s a bad example:

            I want to be promoted to CMO because I need more responsibility.

            In this case, it’ll be unlikely for you to receive a promotion if the purpose and reason behind your goals are not strong.

            Here’s a good example:

            I want to be promoted to CMO because I enjoy digital marketing. I’m currently excelling in X, Y, and Z digital marketing practices, and I believe that via a promotion I can further grow the business via X, Y and Z.

            The why will help you grind out in moments when you just want to throw in the towel, and also provide more purpose for your goals.

            Timely

            And…finally we’ve hit the deadline.

            Having a due date helps your team set micro goals and milestones towards the goal.

            That way, you can plan workload throughout your days, weeks, and months to ensure that your team won’t be racing against the clock.

            Let’s start with a bad example:

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            I’m going to land a new promotion this summer.

            Now, let’s turn this into a great example:

            Within the next month I will increase marketing revenue by XX%. Then, within three months I will expand the digital team, hire two new employees and scale it. Within five months I will leverage this success into a new role.

            So that’s how you create a measurable goal.

            Here’s a summary of the example above in the order of its acronyms.

            Overall Goal: I want to transition into a new role with a reputable company.

            • S: I want to find a new role at a Fortune 500 company that improves my current salary and work-life balance.
            • M: I am going to land a promotion to senior VP by improving my work quality. When I say work quality, I will measure this by projects completed, revenue earned, and success factors important to my superiors.
            • A: This week I will record my time spent on projects to analyze the amount of revenue or success they generate. Projects that fall short of production will get less time and resources than others.
            • R: I want to be promoted to CMO because I enjoy digital marketing. I’m currently excelling in X, Y, and Z digital marketing practices, and I believe that via a promotion I can further grow the business via X, Y and Z.
            • T: Within the next month I will increase marketing revenue by XX%. Then, within three months I will expand the digital team, hire two new employees and scale it. Within five months I will leverage this success into a new role.

            But before we finish off, I want to leave you with a note:

            If you want to ensure you reach your goals, make sure you’re accountable. Ensure that you will stick by the goal and deliver the results that you want. Because sometimes, the goal might not just be for you. It could be goals for your clients, customers, and even loved ones.

            For example:

            Here, Housecall Pro promises customers that they grow up to 30% in one year.

            By placing that statement on their landing page, they’re keeping themselves and their goals accountable to their customers.

            For personal goals, tell your friends and family.

            For professional goals, you can tell your peers, colleagues, and even your clients (once you’re ready).

            Bottom Line

            So to wrap things up, if you want to measure a goal, be SMART about it.

            Start with a specific outcome in mind; make sure it’s measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely to your existing schedule.

            While 92 percent of people fail to reach their goals, you can be the exception.

            Reach your goals by setting targets and objectives together.

            More About Goals Setting

            Featured photo credit: Green Chameleon via unsplash.com

            Reference

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