It came once a day when I found that process maps expressed better that which my mind was creating. Faster and larger in scope: the details within each cloud-shaped thought were bullet- pointed words carefully chosen to express concepts and complete ideas. My thoughts had become encapsulated in slogans. The minutia of tasks listing was no longer a boredom as quickly they resolved into milestones.
I then realised I was journeying my thinking from a tactically driven output to a strategically charged input.
Almost suddenly it was not enough to be given recognition of a well-completed project or brief. I craved the satisfaction to know how it would fit in the overall scheme of the larger project I knew it belonged to. The discovery that no master thinking, that no vision, that no world map may exist to welcome and house my projects generated great and painful dissatisfaction.
The journey from tactical to strategical had brought me to a cross-road of choice.
Tactical abilities are essential to the achievement of high-quality performance and care of the particular. Attention to tactical choices influences directly cost control, customer satisfaction and high product specifications. Tactical choices are, however, broadly defined by cruising plans, definition of destination and discriminatory result-outcomes.
When planning a banquet, the occasion will determine the menu and the menu will determine the recipes and preparation time. An attentive tactical execution within the parameters given by the occasion, which will inevitably include budget, will signify the quality of the banquet and the overall experience of the execution itself.
The questions that interest me are: is the journey from tactical to strategical automatic? Is it necessary and is it an actual journey of knowledge acquisition and discovery?
The relevance of the question aims to understand how career paths and, more crucially, career expectations can be generated, evaluated and managed. Career here can also be more loosely interpreted in terms of ‘life-span’ of a product, a project team as well as referring to a specific individual growth.
It can be observed that some professionals always initiate the conversation by drawing ‘the big picture’ and only after this can they move to the tactical aspects. One can also admit that same professionals are rarely occupied with the outcome or the larger setting where an item or a task might find its place.
At the same time, it is my experience and conclusion that sustainable strategical planning exists when a significant tactical apprenticeship and experience has occurred. Even there where talent for lateral thinking, for finding creative and imaginative solutions is available, the transformational of innovative ideas into tangible innovative outcomes only occurs when the creative mind has gained sufficient acumen on delivering high-quality projects and tasks.
The chef who is able to recognise the flavour and texture of a pea taken from a frozen bag from one freshly squired from a pod will successfully generate menus that will match and deliver on the banquet sense of occasion.
The journey from tactical to strategic seems therefore not to be automatic: there, where talent and interest are available, the path to sustainable and successful strategic planning is filled with restrain and patience. Often frustration might lead to a change of direction by the actor.
There, where enforcement of quality and attention to detail is prevalent, the move towards strategical thinking is to be encouraged, nurtured and occasionally imposed. It will require coaching and mentoring and external motivators.
This evaluation does not, however, make me doubt that the term journey appropriately applies and as such a sense of adventure and discovery will accompany those that commence it.