Strategy is Dynamic

Strategy is Dynamic

Why is the role of strategist fading away at a time when it is the most needed?

What is a strategist? The origin of the word strategy is in Greek – the Greek words stratos (army) and agein (lead). “Strategy“ is then derived from the word strategos (a military general). The main meaning of strategy is long-term planning to help achieve an objective. The strategy describes how the objective will be achieved. The person responsible for crafting such a plan is called strategist.

Like a military general, a strategist works with tacticians to carry out strategic plans. In non-military organizations, this work is most efficiently carried out through collaboration with tacticians such as CEOs, COOs, specialists, and project managers, who use a carefully planned strategy to achieve a specific end.

Sun Tzu’s maxim teaches that strategy and tactics work in concert to accomplish objectives. Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy are the noise before the defeat.

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

-Sun Tzu

In an ad agency, there is a role for creative integrity. The person filling that role ensures that at each step of a campaign (tactics) the integrity of the strategy is maintained. Otherwise, the final deliverable is unrecognizable because each tactician that touches it re-interprets the deliverable based on their understanding, creative expression, or skill.

In a trial, the case frame, the story, and the sequence of facts is strategic. Tacticians select a jury, deliver the opening statement, examine witnesses, prepare and present evidence and demonstratives, and make the closing argument.

But the strategist’s role is not one-and-done at the beginning of a project, campaign, or trial. The strategist’s role is dynamic. It is constantly changing. Consider a kayaker. As a tactician, a kayaker will have a map of a river as well as notes from other kayakers who have been on the river before. As a strategist, a kayaker will recognize that the water is dynamically changing and the objective is to enjoy the run and reach the take-out point alive. This might mean kayaking areas that have never been kayaked before. It also might mean carrying the kayak around sections of the river that have always been deemed safe in the past.

The objective for a trial lawyer as a tactician, for example, may be to win a trial for a sum certain or more. The objective for the strategist may be to resolve the conflict to minimize the collateral costs of trial (like publicity, inviting additional claimants, and so forth).

For the strategist, a trial may be a necessary tactic to bring the parties or the process to the point where negotiation is possible. And once negotiation is possible it becomes the new tactic to achieve the overall objective of resolving the conflict.

I am not suggesting that the strategist and tactician roles cannot be played by the same person. I am suggesting that in organizations and teams the differentiation of the roles has value. I am suggesting that where strategists and tacticians dynamically collaborate, objectives are achieved more effectively.

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Brandon Blankenship
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Experiments are a Success When You Learn

Experiments are a Success When You Learn

Someone shared this image with me of a pigeon’s nest. I don’t know if this accurately reflects the average pigeon’s nest. I didn’t google it. That isn’t the point I took away from the image. The point I took away is that for an onlooker – like me – this nest looks like a failure. For the pigeon, it seems like a success. Success for me is when I learn.

Pigeon's nest

I know many of my experiments look like a failure when folks look at them. Sometimes, they look like a failure — after some time passes — even to me. And I have to remind myself that because that experiment I know how to ______________________ (weld, plumb, research, cite, whatever). Success is when you learn.

Now that I have this image, I’ve got a reminder that what might look like a failed experiment might, in fact, be a success because I learned.

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Brandon Blankenship
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There is a Place for Tradition

There is a Place for Tradition

Jacob L. Moreno introduced the phrase cultural conserve to describe anything that has the effect of preserving valuable cultural memories, such as skills, discoveries, concepts, or moral values. Culture is conserved by culture carriers, that is, those who carry something forward from one generation to the next.

One way culture is conserved is tradition. Tradition is acknowledging that I have a history. Tradition is acknowledging that for hundreds and hundreds of years before I existed, people existed before me. Those people, like me, wanted to flourish and to a large degree wanted to promote human flourishing.

To promote human flourishing they created customs and beliefs, created or accumulated tools, and bought and maintained property. Some of these things were woven into tradition as a remembrance of something good or noble. Some of these things were woven into tradition as a warning or reminder that some things are bad. These traditions are what make my most intimate community. It is the songs we sing, the dances we dance, the food we eat, and the way we support and care for one another.

To break with tradition is a contemplative act. To some extent, I have to say to myself and others that I have figured something out or been enlightened in some way that they were not. Rather than an act of hubris, breaking with tradition is an act of humility. It is saying to the many that came before me that I somehow got it more right than they did.

But for there to be a place for tradition, culture carriers have to do just that. Culture carriers have to meaningfully examine which parts of the culture, which traditions, they will carry forward into the next generation. To refuse to carry forward no culture is to unhinge from the generations upon generations that did carry forward their part for human flourishing. It is choosing unnecessary suffering and death for this generation.

There is a place for tradition. To choose tradition does not mean that we have to keep the bad along with the good. We can choose to carry forward the tradition that promotes human flourishing and leave the rest to history.

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Brandon Blankenship
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