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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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            1 How to Write a Cover Letter for a Career Change (Step-By-Step Guide) 2 How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work 3 How to Ask for Help When You Need It Most 4 How Much Do You Need to Give Up to Start Over? 5 Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone?

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            Published on March 26, 2019

            How to Write a Cover Letter for a Career Change (Step-By-Step Guide)

            How to Write a Cover Letter for a Career Change (Step-By-Step Guide)

            Embarking on a career change, tiny or big, can be paralyzing. Regardless of the reason for your desired career change, you need to be very clear on ‘why’ you are making a change. This is essential because you need to have clarity and be confident in your career direction in order to convince employers why you are best suited for the new role or industry.

            A well crafted career change cover letter can set the tone and highlight your professional aspirations by showcasing your personal story.

            1. Know Your ‘Why’

            Career changes can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. You can take control and change careers successfully by doing research and making informed decisions.

            Getting to know people, jobs, and industries through informational interviews is one of the best ways to do this.[1] Investing time to gather information from multiple sources will alleviate some fears for you to actually take action and make a change.

            Here are some questions to help you refine your ‘why’, seek clarity, and better explain your career change:

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            • What makes me content?
            • How do I want work to impact my life?
            • What’s most important to me right now?
            • How committed am I to make a career change?
            • What do I need more of to feel satisfied at work?
            • What do I like to do so much that I lose track of time?
            • How can I start to explore my career change options?
            • What do I dislike about my current role or work environment?

            2. Introduction: Why Are You Writing This Cover Letter?

            Make this section concise. Cite the role that you are applying for and include other relevant information such as the posting number, where you saw the posting, the company name, and who referred you to the role, if applicable.

            Sample:

            I am applying for the role of Client Engagement Manager posted on . Please find attached relevant career experiences on my resume.

            3. Convince the Employer: Why Are You the Best Candidate for the Role?

            Persuade the employer that you are the best person for the role. Use this section to show that you: have read the job posting, understand how your skills contribute to the needs of the company, and can address the challenges of the company.

            Tell your personal story and make it easy for hiring managers to understand the logic behind your career change. Clearly explaining the reason for your career change will show how thoughtful and informed your decision-making process is of your own transition.

            Be Honest

            Explain why you are making a career change. This is where you will spend the bulk of your time crafting a clear message.

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            Speak to the mismatch that may be perceived by hiring managers, between the experience shown on your resume and the job posting, to show why your unique strengths make you more qualified than other candidates.

            Address any career gaps on our resume. What did you do or learn during those periods that would be an asset to the role and company?

            Sample:

            I have been a high school English and Drama educator for over 7 years. In efforts to develop my career in a new direction, I have invested more time outside the classroom to increase community engagement by building a strong network of relationships to support school programs. This includes managing multiple stakeholder interests including local businesses, vendors, students, parents, colleagues, the Board, and the school administration.

            Highlight Relevant Accomplishment

            Instead of repeating what’s on your resume, let your personality shine. What makes you unique? What are your strengths and personal characteristics that make you suited for the job?

            Sample:

            As a joyful theater production manager, I am known to be an incredible collaborator. My work with theater companies have taught me the ability to work with diverse groups of people. The theater environment calls for everyone involved to cooperate and ensure a successful production. This means I often need to creatively and quickly think on my feet, and use a bit of humour to move things forward to meet tight timelines.

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            Feature Your Transferable Skills

            Tap into your self-awareness to capture your current skills.[2]

            Be specific and show how your existing skills are relevant to the new role. Review the job posting and use industry specific language so that the hiring manager can easily make the connection between your skills and the skills that they need.

            Sample:

            As the first point of contact for students, parents, and many community stakeholders, I am able to quickly resolve problems in a timely and diplomatic manner. My problem solving aptitude and strong negotiation skills will be effective to address customer issues effectively. This combined with my planning, organization, communication, and multitasking skills makes me uniquely qualified for the role of Client Engagement Manager to ensure that customers maintain a positive view of .

            4. Final Pitch and Call-To-Action: Why Do You Want to Work for This Company?

            Here’s your last chance to show what you have to offer! Why does this opportunity and company excite you? Show what value you’ll add to the company.

            Remember to include a call-to-action since the whole point of this letter is to get you an interview!

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            Sample:

            _________ is a global leader in providing management solutions to diverse clients. I look forward to an opportunity to discuss how my skills and successful experience managing multiple stakeholders can help build and retain strong customer relationships as the Client Engagement Manager.

            Summing It Up

            Remember these core cover letter tips to help you effectively showcase your personal brand:

            • Keep your writing clear and concise. You have one page to express yourself so make every word count.
            • Do your research to determine ‘who’ will be reading your letter. Understanding your audience will help you better persuade them that you are best suited for the role.
            • Tailor your cover for each job posting by including the hiring manager’s name, and the company name and address. Make it easy on yourself and create your own cover letter template. Highlight or alter the font color of all the spots that need to be changed so that you can easily tailor it for the next job application.
            • Get someone else to review your cover letter. At a minimum, have someone proofread it for grammar and spelling errors. Ideally, have someone who is well informed about the industry or with hiring experience to provide you with insights so that you can fine-tune your career change cover letter.

            Check out these Killer Cover Letter Samples that got folks interviews!

            It is very important that you clarify why you are changing careers. Your career exploration can take many forms so setting the foundation by knowing ‘why’ not only helps you develop a well thought out career change cover letter, [3] but can also help you create an elevator pitch, build relationships, tweak your LinkedIn profile and during interviews.

            Remember to focus on your transferable skills and use your collective work experience to show how your accomplishments are relevant to the new role. Use the cover letter to align your abilities with the needs of the employer as your resume will likely not provide the essential context of your career change.

            Ensure that your final pitch is concise and that your call-to action is strong. Don’t be afraid to ask for an interview or to meet the hiring manager in-person!

            More Resources About Career Change

            Featured photo credit: Christin Hume via unsplash.com

            Reference

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