Good at strategy? Great. Do the work. Be a practitioner.

It’s great to be a strategist. Heck, it’s a higher-paying job. But it’s dangerous to be too far away from tactics — especially since they change so often in tech. To be better at the work, you have to do the work.

A coder can’t understand overall strategy without an intimacy with the code he’s proficient in, or better yet, understanding trends in codebases. A mechanic would not be able to shape and evolve his business if he doesn’t understand how much time an oil change should take.

Most small businesses, freelancers, and entrepreneurs are also practitioners. It’s not degrading to your role to do the work. So why do I hear myself saying this so often?

Do the Work.

Jason Knill and I shape organic and paid advertising at GiveWP along with my traditional content marketing goals like blog posts and email marketing. We look at trends, we talk about insights from in-person meetings, Meetups, Twitter, WordCamps, and other people’s news. We bring a “mental rigor and curiosity,” as he calls it, to our work with GiveWP.

Lately, we’ve been having a conversation around craft. Why do so many people in our industry enjoy making craft beer? Why are people in tech turning to knitting, gardening, or even fishing?

It’s about short-term satisfaction and accomplishment.

So often our work has long-term results. It’s no different with strategy. To craft a strategy and then wait for results takes faith — faith in the process, faith in the forecasting, faith in the tactics.

Waiting for results takes faith — in the process, in the forecasting, in the tactics. Share on X

So why do so many people shy away from tactics and stick with strategy?

The only reason I can come up with is job protection.

Protecting The Boundaries of Your Job Title

Being a Marketing Manager means thinking strategically. That’s a closely-guarded job title. I’ve had friends say they won’t do “x, y, or z” because it devalues their job title. I’ve also been told that I’m acting like a “Social Media Manager” as if it’s more degrading than a “Marketing Manager.”

Hey, I get it. In this world, regardless of how far we’ve come, a woman usually only gains salary increases by switching jobs. It’s sad from the point of diversity, feminism, and, I hate to say it, company culture.

I recently read this post called “6 Reasons Why You Are Losing Key Employees” on LinkedIn by Bärí A. Williams. She brings up a valid point about salary history:

“If two people with the same experience and education are hired as peers, are their titles and pay equal? Because people of color and women are often underpaid, even when moving companies or switching roles, they lose out of money based on salary history. Assuring that rank and pay are fair helps keep people of color and women from being under-leveled and underpaid.” Bärí A. Williams

Consequences of Status Protection

Before I digress too far away from my point of “doing the work,” there is something we should think about in this vein.

If “it’s not my job” prevails any company culture, what you’ll have is an employee who is looking to transition to any good offer that presents itself. This will happen either consciously or subconsciously.

What you’ve lost is bigger than the time you’ve invested in said employee.

You’ve lost loyalty.

A loss in loyalty affects the entire company culture. People watch how Employee X is treated. They will pick up on cognitive dissonance. They will come to the conclusion that if Employee X isn’t valued, maybe they’re not either.

But I digress. The point is that no matter the reason you think you should protect the boundaries of your job title, being too far away from tactics affects strategy.

What is the difference between strategy and tactics?

Strategy is tied to goals. Where do you want to be? What would you like to achieve in a certain timeframe.

Strategy is the plan — 30 days, 120 days, 1 year.

Think of it in terms we may be more familiar with: war. Strategy is about winning the war. Tactics are how you do it. The great generals of time understand the landscape, their enemy, their enemy’s tactics, and the strengths and weaknesses of their own army.

Don’t like war? How about sports? No football team goes against another team without spending time on the field in practice. The strategy of the game never changes: outscore the opposing team by running the ball in the end zone.

The tactics to achieve that strategy vary depending upon the team you’re playing. Coaches and leadership — maybe even the team — will spend hours watching tape of the opposing team — studying their every move. The strategy of studying the opposition helps you find their strengths and weaknesses. It helps shape the tactics used in order to accomplish the overall goals.

Coaches and generals apply strategy to achieve their goals, but in war and football, the tactics and tools don’t evolve as quickly as the digital world. This is why it’s important to do the work.

Tactics in social shift frequently. Do the work. Be a practitioner. Share on X

Strategy and Tactics are not Mutually Exclusive

If you’ve ever listened to Gary Vaynerchuk, then you’ve heard him say, “be a practitioner.” He talks about having his head in the clouds and his feet in the dirt.

For him, clouds represent strategy and tactics the dirt.

In this video he says,

I believe that engagement on Twitter makes sense. I also then do it.”

Do the Work.

Once you write your strategy and start implementing it, you may see results that surprise you — in any direction. Do you stop to ask yourself why?

Why are those ads converting? What is your time on site? What are the voids your brand can fill in your industry? Where can you show your value? How can you increase loyalty? Why is your open rate so low? Is it just your company or is it the service?

Questions are important. Questions drive you to answers.

If you don’t understand tactics, you won’t ask the right questions. Share on X

Doing the work gives you familiarity. Sure, Vayner Media has over 800 employees. But what’s amazing about Gary Vaynerchuk is that he always does the work. That’s why his agency has won in so many areas.

“Here’s the thing: if you’re not constantly working on your craft—if you get too romantic about doing things how they’ve “always been done”—you’re going to lose. You need to be a practitioner.” Gary Vaynerchuk

Tactical shifts — especially in media — can alter the effectiveness of your strategy. If you distance yourself too far from implementation, you will not be able to create or alter a strategy that creates results.

Do the work.

“Be a practitioner.”


10 responses to “Good at strategy? Great. Do the work. Be a practitioner.”

  1. I love the idea that you have to be able to zoom out and then sign back in, back-and-forth between the clouds and the dirt. And don’t be afraid to get your feet dirty. Awesome post!

  2. Good analogy for strategy vs. tactics: “The strategy of the game never changes: outscore the opposing team by running the ball in the end zone. The tactics to achieve that strategy vary depending upon the team you’re playing.”

    Strategy takes a lot of planning and brain power, but I agree with you, the tactics to achieve the overarching goals contained within the strategy take a lot of muscle, patience, and dedication.

    Awesome post, as always!

  3. I like your phrase, “muscle, patience, and determination.” That is an appropriate description.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, too!