Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Strategic Thinking or Tactical Thinking? What About Getting Something Done?

Strategic Thinking and Tactical Thinking

The semantic and actual differences between strategic thinking and tactical thinking are discussed in thousands of  websites, books and magazine articles.  If you look at the overviews on search engines, you’d almost think one article had been copied 483,672 times. The essence of most of them is this:

Strategic thinking is about what should be done. Tactical thinking is about how to do it.

Organizations Need People Who Will Do Something

In the last few decades there has been a tremendous emphasis on the components and by-products of strategic and tactical thinking: leadership, creativity, analysis, judgment, innovation, courage, vision, persistence, insight and inspiration. As a result, many employees are much more concerned about being considered a thinker than they are concerned or even interested in being a doer.  However, in the real-world of work there are no job descriptions that say,

“Job only requires thinking brilliantly and making plans. No grunt work, administrative work or plain old work involved, ever. Once the big thinking is finished, employee can pick and choose what tasks seem most impressive and dump everything else on others. An infinite amount of time is available for thinking about, meeting about and talking about every project.”

Doing Is Important But Getting Work Done Is Even More Important.

In an effective workplace, work comes in, gets done, goes out and another task–or several–takes its place. In many ways, all work involves an assembly line and a conveyor belt.  However, there is a tendency to think that when an employee is very, very busy, working furiously on task, it is an indicator that he or she is being productive. 

That overlooks the fact that some employees stretch every task to the maximum time allowed and beyond. Some employees create such havoc over routine work that more time is required. Some employees generate extra steps or they need more input, more time, more everything, than is reasonable. Just working at work isn’t enough. In most workplaces, getting done with a task and moving on is what builds the business or the organization. 

 When Strategizing And Planning Are Out Of Balance With Getting Work Done:

  • You hear, “Let’s meet about this again tomorrow” almost every day.  
  • There are large visions without immediate plans of action and a timeline for achieving them.
  • It seems that being asked to strategize or plan is considered a compliment but being asked to do something is irritating or demeaning.
  • Some employees act as though their work is done after they have planned work for others.
  • Tasks and projects are backlogged. Picture a clogged drain pipe with a cup of water being poured in every day but only half a cup draining out. 
  • Time lines are extended repeatedly.
  • There are many times of “back to the drawing board” because of obsessive concerns or a failure to make decisions and get going with the work.
  • A task becomes all-consuming and other employees are expected to make it a priority, no matter how much it disrupts their own work.  
  • Coworkers and clients make “joking” remarks or come right out and complain. 
  • Forward progress has slowed or stopped and daily work has become painfully and unreasonably laborious.

The bottom line: Conceptual, strategic and tactical thinking is needed in every workplace and it should be valued. However, there is a time when the talking and planning needs to stop and work needs to be done–on time, efficiently and effectively.

September 3rd, 2010 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 8 comments