Friday, August 21, 2009

Leadership: Keeping the Strategic Focus

At times--we get pulled in many different directions. The senior leadership, likewise, may also be pulled in directions and into situations which, if not properly assessed, could be detrimental to the larger organization.

I learned many years ago that we need to recognize the three spheres of influence within which we work: tactical, operational, and strategic.

Tactical is the fight going on right in your face. It is the small scale skirmishes which occur daily in the work place and in office politics. In the military--these are the operations of units directly engaged in operations. There are life and death struggles--and it is though tactical operations that the larger wars are won. Sales are made, new clients found.

Operational is the collective of tactical operations as they relate to a unified goal or objective in a larger sphere. In the military this is a theater of operations. In business--this might be domestic versus overseas operations. It involves the synchronicity of multiple tactical operations in coordination to achieve the larger objective.

Strategic is the key. What are he grander goals of the nation, or the larger company. Blending the operational goals into a unified strategy and focusing that direction is how empires are made. it is how GM became GM.

But then it was all lost.

Business lost its strategic vision. Short term success (a tactical type of goal) overtook the strategic planning and business models. No longer was there recapitalization of capacity. The goal was short term market increase at the expense of everything else. That is what the investors wanted.

Gains, gains, gains!

It could only go on so long. At some point without reinvestment and recapitalization the strategic battle was lost. There was no basis on which to continue to innovate and develop. It had been sold to please the brokers and the investors.

The United States is facing a similar problem. We are pouring so much energy (talent and treasure) into Afghanistan and Iraq and we are drawing down the strategic advantage that we carry over from the past, but we are not reinvesting in our strategic advantage.

The well is going dry.

Just like in business when the strategic vision is lost, I worry that the U.S. may soon suffer a strategic surprise. We have mortgaged our future without any plan for payoff.

Leadership requires keeping your eye on the ball, whether you are the leader of a small team, a division within a company, a military maneuver unit, or of the free world.

Becoming focused at the grass roots level (tactical) when you are responsible for strategic vision is a recipe for disaster.

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