I was asked this question a few weeks back: “What can one do to become a strategist?” That’s a great question, one that requires you to do two things, says Cory Treffiletti.
First off, you have to understand what strategy is. Second, you have to put yourself in a position to be strategic.
I know there are books written on the definition of strategy, but I tend to think most books are too long (even my own book). Simply put, strategy is a plan, which enables you to be proactive. Strategy ensures you’re not forced to react to everything thrown in your direction at the same level of intensity. Strategy creates priorities, gives you an end goal to shoot at, and a means of achieving those goals.
Not having a strategy means everything becomes a priority, and you are forever in a reactive environment. Strategy is the path to achieve a vision. Tactics change, but overall strategy should not, unless it’s proven to be ineffective, and you need to revisit it.
Being a strategist requires you to put yourself in a position to understand strategy. I know this sounds redundant, but allow me to explain. When that question was originally asked, I came up with three responses. In no particular order, I would suggest the following:
- Task yourself to evaluate the strategy of others.
- Network with people who develop strategic plans.
- Practice writing a strategy for whatever problems you’re being tasked to solve.
Tasking yourself to evaluate the strategy of others does not mean determining if you think they are right or wrong, because unfortunately that is a subjective evaluation. There are typically many ways to achieve a successful outcome, and no single strategy is the answer. What you are doing is trying to understand the overarching priorities, the target, and the challenges they are trying to solve, and seeing if you can reverse-engineer, by reviewing the tactics they chose, what the strategy was. The more you are able to connect the dots by evaluating what they are doing to achieve their goals, the more you will start to understand how these tactics work together. Seeing the bigger picture will help you see the strategy.
Networking is one of the most important things you can do to create success in general, but networking with people who have developed strategy is even more important. You are looking for the leaders, and to have conversations on what they saw when they developed their campaigns or communications programmes. Strategists tend to be problem-solvers, so you want to see how problems-solvers tackle problems. Some have a well-defined methodology, while others are more intuitive and simply listen, process and come up with ideas.
What’s of special interest to me when I speak to these leaders is how they then apply metrics to their ideas. The strategists with a specific methodology tend to know the metrics they will be evaluated on upfront. The ‘deep thinkers’ (as I call them) tend to approach every problem in a unique way, with the metrics unique for each problem. You can learn from both, and formulate your own style accordingly.
Of course, practice makes perfect. You should approach everything you do through the lens of being strategic. You can work with colleagues to help them create a strategy to solve the problems they have. Even in sports, a strategy to win a game can be different from how that strategy tactically manifests.
Strategy is not easy, but it can become a trained response. You can decrease the reactive moments in your day by applying a strategic filter to everything you do, if you take the time upfront to do it.
For me, strategy is a plan that allows me to retain some semblance of control when attacking the day-to-day problems of life and career. Maybe I should write a book about that. It might not be a very long book, but it could be a fun one to write!
How do you strategise?
Cory Treffiletti (@ctreff) is vice president of strategy for the Oracle Marketing Cloud, and is a founder, author, marketer and evangelist. This post was first published by MediaPost.com and is republished with the kind permission of the author.