Rabbits and Visions
A few years back I had a group of senior leaders who started overusing the word “strategy.” I realized that some people who believed they were “strategists” were thinking like tactical experts. Many who aspired to be visionaries were more strategy-minded. Strategy, tactics and vision are far from the same things. It’s important to understand that a company must have strong team members in all three disciplines. One is no more important than the others since all three must work together to accomplish goals. The first step in understanding where your contributions can be most significant, and where you want to focus your growth, is to assess your current strengths. I came up with an explanation that, while a bit crude, seems to get the point across.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A VISIONARY, A STRATEGIST AND A TACTICAL EXPERT
A Tactical Expert walks into a giant house where every room is covered in rabbit poop. They begin sweeping up the poop, room by room, starting at the back and working towards the front. They work tirelessly and diligently, day after day. They make lists of rooms and check them off one by one, feeling amazing as their to-do list gets smaller. They get a great sense of satisfaction when the house is clean, but they know that when they come back tomorrow, there will be fresh piles of rabbit poop waiting for them.
A Strategist understands that the goal here is to keep the house as clean as possible at all times. Having it dirty every morning is inefficient and it’s hard to keep the team motivated. They look at the situation and say, “There’s got to be a better way.” They research the best cleaning equipment to speed up the job. They create a process to ensure that after each room is cleaned, doors are shut so rooms don’t get dirty every day. They drive the work and keep the Tactical Experts focused on the task at hand. They feel accomplished when they can reduce the average amount of day-to-day rabbit poop.
A Visionary comes into the house and says, “There’s a rabbit loose in here. Let’s catch the rabbit.”
Visions, or ideas, frequently come as a result of an opportunity. When there is a need to solve a problem or improve a product, a visionary can see a solution that people will buy, embrace or support. Example: people don’t like having to go to the video store to rent/return movies because new releases are often unavailable and it’s a hassle to return or you get late fees. Opportunity: bye-bye Blockbuster, hello streaming video subscription services. One of the hardest things to do is to try to convince people that they HAVE a problem in order to sell them the solution, which is why the very best visions or ideas can only come after problems or hassles arise.
In business, Visionaries can identify systemic issues and create the framework for problem solving, and they need to be able to rely on the Strategists and Tactical Experts to implement processes and procedures to deliver on objectives. Most opportunities to improve internal operations follow the path of the “rabbit situation,” as they can only be addressed once a pain-point is identified. That means that until the vision is set and the strategy is developed, a company will be sweeping up pellets for a while, even after the problem is identified.
Often it’s a Tactical Expert that asks the “why” questions that get the conversations started. Other times it’s the Strategists making recommendations to address opportunities for improvement at the macro level. Never miss an opportunity to raise your hand, identify an issue and offer a solution. This is the best way to grow and stretch your thinking. Every day is rabbit hunting season.