Fellow Yahoo Chad Dickerson wrote a thoughtful post called Tactical is the New Strategic. He writes:
big company managers routinely describe themselves as either “tactical” or “strategic.” Typically, those who say they are “strategic” talk down to those considered more “tactical”, directly or indirectly. This is wrong-headed.
I’m not saying that strategy isn’t important, just that strategy directly combined with tactical skill is the real killer combo.
I’ve always felt this way and I like to think that I’m the type of person who can do both — craft a winning strategy and make it happen. Over the years, people have been kind enough to say that they see this combination in me and that its a very rare thing. But I’ve also met director-level and VP-level managers (yes, here at Yahoo) who consider them self “strategic” “big thinkers” who love to dismiss me as “tactical” (as if its an insult). And its funny, I’m relatively dismissive of those folks because while I see them talking all the time, I rarely see anything come of it.
In my time here at Yahoo, I’ve probably interviewed over 1000 people (no kidding) and hired at least 50 or so. When I hire, I am constantly searching for that combination of someone who could step back and see how the world is changing and seek out ways to win AND gets excited about all the details that we need to nail to get it right. When I first interview people I ask a series of questions to get to the heart of the this. They usually put themselves into the do-er camp (tactical) or the thinker camp (strategic). It amazes me how quickly people identify with those. But the folks that are ultimately going to be most successful are the ones who get excited about both. They thoughtfully articulate why a product needs to completely change direction and then talk about the most minor detail that we just need to fix to make things better for consumers. I’m lucky to have hired a lot of people like this (and by the way, they aren’t just managers, they are all over).
Winning companies have always recognized that you need this combination. When I notice that a company doesn’t get it – that values tactical execution over strategy OR values those people who talk strategy but want others to “do the dirty work” – then I see a company in trouble. You need both. So what are you? And what does your company value?
Fundamentally Strategy without Tactics is futile and Tactics without Strategy is pointless. My experience is that those you claim to be tactical (and not Strategic) usually mean they don’t like thinking about hard problems. Sometimes those claiming to be strategic are just vague and disconnected. I once posed this distinction to a Maj Gen. commanding an infrantry division and they broke into laughter – it is such a silly distinction.