How to be strategic

Notes on a post from Julie Zhuo

Sun, 06 Jan 2019

A review of this article by Julie Zhuo.

Julie used to think that being strategic meant setting metric goals or “Thinking outside the box” to come up with new ideas or creating frameworks.

What is a strategy?

However, really

a strategy is [just] a set of actions designed to achieve a particular objective

A “good” strategy is slightly more complicated…

a good strategy is a set of actions that is credible, coherent and focused on overcoming the biggest hurdle(s) in achieving a particular objective.

This definition packs a lot in.

  1. achieving a particular objective requires you to know what you’re trying to achieve. It should be clear what success looks like.
  2. set of actions means there must be a concrete plan
  3. credible and coherent means that the plan must make sense and be believable. It should also be broken down into understandable steps.
  4. Focussed on overcoming the biggest hurdles means that there should be a clear diagnosis of the biggest problems to be solved.

We can see from this definition that none of the things that Julie was doing provided the full strategy. They each play a part but a strategy doesn’t fall out of them.

How to be strategic

Create alignment around what wild success looks like

Talk about the vision until you’re at the point where each person on the team can independently write down their own idea of what wild success looks like and everyone’s vision is the same.

Understand which problem you’re looking to solve for which group of people

You have to exhaust the problem.

Prioritize. And cut

This is the focus part of the equation. You have to be ruthless.

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things. - Steve Jobs

David Tuite

Platform Product Manager at Workday. Ex. JavaScript and Ruby developer