Imagine someone came to you with a proposal regarding local industry garment workers facing increased competition from foreign competitors. $1 billion from the country or $4 from you (assuming a population of 250 million) would save their jobs. $4 per year to save a few jobs – that doesn’t sound too bad, right?
Now, imagine the steel industry comes to you with a similar request. Then, the auto industry, then the television manufacturers and so on. All of a sudden, you are paying $250 per year to bail all these industries out. There is no way you would have agreed to this if you had known this would be the end outcome. But, consider the situation case by case and you will find that it is possible to say yes to each individual request.
That is why a case-by-case analysis without a big picture overview is dangerous. And that is exactly why strategy matters.
For example, the biggest criticism leveled at self-help books is that many of the ideas don’t work for those who read them. Of course they don’t work. If you go in with a willingness to test every new idea, many will fail. The strategy here would be to really understand yourself – your values, your drive and your approach – and then pick ideas that align with who you are.
Similarly, a smart football manager’s strategy is to pick a formation that suits her team. There is no point attempting a counter attacking strategy if her team is not suited for quick counter attacks.
If you approach a new environment without an overarching strategy, anything and everything can seem like a good idea. Your strategy is the filter that helps you make sense of the world. It is the way we think about and approach the world and it is fundamental. Here are 2 examples of a strategy for the first month at –
a) Your new job: Key priorities i) Understand what the deliverables are and what success looks like ii) Spend time getting to know my co-workers iii) Focus hard on the core task and don’t worry about additional opportunities (revisit as necessary)
b) Your graduate school studies: Key priorities i) Recruiting – because it is a great process to learn for life and because the results matter ii) Academics – because I am here to learn iii) Extra curriculars – because it is a great way to get to know people iv) Social – because I must prioritize time to get to know people from different social circles
So, what if we get it wrong? Good news – like life, it is iterative. If it didn’t go so well today, don’t fret. Learn. We will do better tomorrow.
(Hat tip to Avinash K Dixit’s book – The Art of Thinking Strategically)