08 Apr Getting Real
In business discussions, there’s often a general sense that strategy trumps tactics. If we want to dismiss something, we describe it as tactical. If we believe something is important, we say it’s strategic.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m as big a fan of strategy as the next consultant. But a lot of our work is actually about translating strategies into tactical steps that people can take in the real world. We’re always trying to understand what concrete actions leaders want to see within their organisations, what specific behaviours, what tangible indicators of change… And, perhaps literally, every second question we ask is: can you give me an example of that?
The reason we’re always hunting for the concrete is that people (us, our clients and their employees) understand the abstract and complex, only by first grasping the tangible and personal.
That’s why people, throughout time, have told fables and used metaphors. The tortoise and the hare story captures how diligent, sustained effort can allow us to triumph over a stronger opponent. The ugly ducking helps us see the importance of context and the nature of tribe.
In order to discuss underlying principles, we need mental building blocks that are based on our understanding of the real, physical world. It’s how the brain works, so you can also see it in our language: we translate abstract concepts like ‘progress’ into real-world notions like “moving forward” or “taking steps”.
We love strategies, but we need to ground them in real-world, actionable tactics for teams. Because the abstract idea might impress us, but only the concrete example moves us.