Why “implementing” will make you a better strategist

Everyone loves to be that “strategy” person who likes to talk about ideas, come up with plans, and bark orders when it’s time to get things done. The challenge is that most people only want to do “strategy” and pass on the hard work of “implementing” stuff to others.

The above is so true with 20 something people I often bump into — they all want to do “strategy” work and lead teams. And guess how much experience do they have in actually doing the grunt work? Close to zero, if not any less.

And if they are honest, most would admit that they probably suck at the implementation part, which isn’t a logical reason to move into strategy. How the hell can you be a good strategist if you don’t even know what it takes to implement a solid strategy?

Of course, the expectation isn’t that one should know all the aspects of implementing a strategy. The idea is to have (or are at least in pursuit of) mastery or some level of expertise in at least one of the aspects that’s part of the implementation plan.

For example, if you’re a content strategy but can’t (or don’t want to) write a decent blog post, I don’t think you can ever understand the plight of that writer who’s developing a piece from scratch. If all you care about is the deadline, that’s not good enough.

From what I know, the best strategists can still roll up their sleeves and get to work. They don’t think implementing a strategy or doing the grunt work is beneath them. It always gives them joy. Heck, some are avid practitioners of the craft themselves, which provides them with deeper insights into the nuances or complexities of implementing a strategy.

I found this bit of wisdom from the Lives of the Stoics recently:

In John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Lee, a brilliant mind, well versed in Stoic Philosophy, is asked why he demeans himself with the lowly profession of being a servant. He retorts that being a servant is the perfect profession for a philosopher: it’s quiet. It’s easy. It lets him study people. It gives him time to think. It’s an opportunity, like any other job, for excellence and mastery.

I see strategists as practical philosophers who know their stuff. They put in a helluva time practising, polishing and mastering not only their craft but also themselves. Way more than they would strategise. That’s not to say they don’t do the latter much but that they become good with it because they are practitioners of their craft.

Being a writer isn’t a lowly profession than a content strategist, definitely not when the latter can’t even write!

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