The Week in Pieces #17 - Of Mice And Men And Strategists

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Five years ago, I bought a house in South London with my girlfriend. We planned to fix the house up, and go out and have some nice meals while we were doing it. We did this because being able to go home together at the end of the day makes everything else in life bearable. Going out to eat together is one of the linchpins of our relationship. This is, very broadly, who we are.
Five years later, my wife, my daughter, and I are waiting to move into our new house in Brighton. None of those things (aside from getting married) were a fixed goal of mine five years ago, and the 2016 me would be very surprised! Looking back, I can rationalise this. I can group my decisions and link up some events and conversations. I can build a case that this was what I’d always planned. But that wouldn’t be honest.
This week, I’ve been having three different conversations with three very different sets of people about strategy. My personal experience, and my observation from my working life, is that long term strategies always end up out of date. Our instinct is to shift the scenery to make it look like we always knew what would happen.
In 2016 I did not know what the world would be like in five years. From Brexit to Omicron, the world is a different place. Even without those global events, I’d argue that as much changes over that kind of timescale as remains the same. But I’d also argue that I’m the same person. My values (why I do things) and what is important to me (who I am) remain pretty constant, even as my priorities change. What changes is how I’m doing things, and what I’m doing.
I’ve seen models in which strategy is the bridge between purpose and action, a fixed set of objectives to get from one stage to another. In fact, I would contend strategy is the combination of values and action - it’s the whole thing, not a step in a linear path. We need purpose and values to guide our decisions, and allow our aspirations and plans to emerge from there. 
Whether you print, publish or save, your strategy is out of date from the moment it is complete. So would it follow that an effective strategy is one that isn’t complete? One that can reflect, redirect and repurpose?
Rather than having fixed objectives for a particular timescale, we need to let go of the idea that we can predict the future. Our values (who we are) are our anchor, and our purpose (why we’re here) is our direction. Our objectives and plans, what we do, and how we do it, should be continuously reviewed and improved, or we will miss opportunities.
The question that emerges is that whether this kind of adaptive strategy is even a strategy in the traditional sense of that word. We are attached to the notion (or illusion) of certainty. Letting go of it would be a huge cognitive effort for individuals, teams, and organisations. But responding to events around us to get the best results shouldn’t be a decision that we make as a result of a long meeting. It needs to be who we are. If we don’t do that, we won’t survive, let alone thrive. 
Strategy vs. Tactics: Why the Difference Matters | Farnam Street
Weak relational ties can be more valuable for your career than strong ones | The Context Of Things
The German Idea of “Hate Days” Helps Me Power Through My Most Annoying Tasks | Medium
How to perform well under pressure | Psyche Guides
From one of the more esoteric You Tube rabbit holes I’ve been down recently, 16 inexplicably relaxing minutes of a Kyoto restaurant making and serving katsu. (Warning: contains raw chicken, colossal amounts of breadcrumbs)
京大生に人気!デカ盛りで安いデカウマのお店「ハイライト食堂」京都でガッツリ食べたいならここ!
京大生に人気!デカ盛りで安いデカウマのお店「ハイライト食堂」京都でガッツリ食べたいならここ!
That’s it! Have a good week, stop panicking about Christmas, and see you back here next week.
Piers
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Piers Campbell

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