Speaking as a strategist, I can categorically state that it doesn’t matter how beautiful and effective the strategy is in principle. Until it is executed, with effective tactics, it is nothing but froth.
Dave Trott takes great pride in his new book, Predatory Thinking, in announcing himself as a tactician, not a strategist. He says: "Strategy is the big picture. Tactics are the little pictures that make up the big picture."
It’s the partnership between the two that delivers. Nothing is delivered without a brilliant team with a strategist to set the overall "how" and a set of excellent tacticians to deliver the "what".
I experienced this first-hand up a ladder over the last bank holiday weekend. We have a boat that has given us huge pleasure over the past few summers but which is now up for sale.
We had an e-mail from the boatyard saying that unfortunately the boat’s canopy had come undone and that she was open to the elements. I found myself therefore balanced precariously six feet up a ladder with the problem of remedying the situation singlehandedly. My strategy was clear. Recover the canopy and secure with new ties. This involved standing on the very edge of the boat and heaving at a canopy that is heavy and several times bigger than me.
Had the boat been in the water, I would have probably been fine as I don’t mind falling in the river. But the boat is on blocks on hard standing. It was raining. It was windy. And it wobbled. The bloke in the nearby chandlery wouldn’t help me (couldn’t leave the shop). It looked like a two-person job to me (maybe even three small persons). But then (when I looked like I was going to get emotional) he presented me with the necessary tactic to do the job on my own. Obvious to him (and maybe to you) but not to me, he explained that I needed to climb into the boat, and push the canopy up over my head from inside the stability and safety of the cockpit rather than heave it towards me from the narrow, wet and slippery gunwales (for my gunwales were awash). This I managed to do – and in the wind and rain of Saturday afternoon, I fixed the situation.
Of course, the job of the strategist is not only to set the big picture, but to ensure that the tactics deliver against it. I love working with brilliant tacticians. The best tacticians are generous, inventive and great at keeping the elements from doing their worst.
Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom