What does it mean to have a strategy or to be strategic? In my mind, a strategy is coming up with a plan based upon the environment, skills and resources available to achieve some type of desired result. I ask this question because so many friends and co-workers have mentioned that being "strategic" is apart of their evaluation. Unfortunately, more times than not, the desired result or goal is missing, vague or unrealistic. It's not enough to say our goal is to "grow the business", "increase sales" or "become a industry leader". There's nothing there to sink your teeth into. Also a strategy is just a plan based upon what you think might happen in the future. It's fun to think about what might happen, but at the end of the day you will be wrong. You will be wrong because you are human. Your prejudices and assumptions will undoubtedly screw up your vision of the future. A plan is a good starting point, but you will not understand what you are doing until you start doing it.
Last week I had a crazy idea for a friend's birthday party. I pictured many colored cuts-out of her face each wearing funny hats so I gathered up some cardboard, scissors and an Exacto knife and found a picture that I thought might work. As I started editing the photo, I immediately ditched the idea of color. After enlarging the image, her face looking sun burnt and blotchy so I went to B&W.
Next, I started cutting out her face on paper and gluing the same shaped cardboard cut out. Again I ran into a snag, the cardboard was too thick to make precise cuts so I rummaged in the recycling for thinner cardboard. After switching to the lighter cardboard, cutting and pasting became easier and the work went faster.
When I finally finished (around 40 heads), I placed them on wood sticks and stuck them in a Styrofoam block. It looked cool, but I needed something else, something more personal. The idea of adding word bubbles popped into my head. I thought about funny things she would say, but as I was walking to the computer, I noticed a written top ten list on top of my printer. My wife had written out ten great things about our friend. Perfect.
So what's the point of all this? It's to illustrate that while I had a plan of how I was going to accomplish my vision, it didn't work out the way I envisioned. There were problems with the image, the cardboard and how much time it was taking. Also when I actually finished, the center-piece didn't fit my original vision. It didn't fully connect to the occasion or person. How could I have realized any of these things without actually doing the work? The answer is couldn't have.