The future lies for everyone hidden behind the horizon. Although some strategists think they have sufficient foresight. In the end, it is a gamble whether the assumed predictions come true. Even if the radar captures the circumstances, they provide a pile of data without clearly delineating the possible activities. The tacticians are forced to structure their horizons, ready for decision. The clumsy segmentation can lead to the fact that the chosen way does not work. The operatives have acute difficulties, which they resolve in the short term by taking spontaneous action. Therefore they must be quick and decisive. The blazing flames are indeed extinguished, but after the fire is before the next.
Let’s take a closer look at the three vantage points of leaders.
- Far-sight – the strategic vision
There is no looking beyond the edge of the visual field. However, the path to that point can be molded to create a connectable plan. As the horizon recedes when approaching, the path can be expanded and become adjusted to apparent changes. Consider Elon Musk, who has been persistently expanding his path for twenty years. He works on electric cars with Tesla, Hyperloop-based passenger transportation with The Boring Company, space logistics with SpaceX, renewable energy generation with SolarCity.
Strategists take the long view (>5 years) of possible, imaginable, and sometimes preposterous disruptions. They do not let current influences, short-term setbacks, or uncertain facts distract them from their visions. Their gaze is forward without legacy. They argue based on their premises. Even if they involve other people in aligning the measures, the founders and CEOs are the sole deciders.
- Overview- the tactical view
Most of the building blocks that make up tomorrow’s biz are already in place or being researched or developed. Regularly observing the current environment and its promises, including opportunities and threats, enables adjusting current initiatives and setting up new ones. Bill Gates is an example of this personality. His loose, not connectable sight to the horizon is illustrated by his long-term forecasts regarding the required memory size of PCs or his expectations regarding the Internet. His negotiating skills manifest in how he sold MS-DOS without having developed and before he actually owned it. This shows his tactical genius.
Tacticians think about medium-term (2-5 years) actions to realize. The current influences (political, economic, social, legal, and ecological) trigger the annual adjustment of the direction and shift the focus. In the process, distorted insights and coming effects are overseen. They subsequently lead to further readjustment. Depending on the circumstances, new explanations are always provided. In the short-lived VUCA world, these feel like long-term measures. When it comes to realization, middle management is demanded. Depending on the personality, the managing directors also decide in the end.
- Insight – the operational focal point
Most of the players are to be found in the active areas of a company. Although they ensure survival, we ignore the many nameless people. They come to their workplace in the morning and don’t know what’s up-coming. In the early morning meeting, the cases of the previous hours are presented, prioritized, and solved. If longer-term measures are set up in this context, then make the immediate doing more expedient.
Operators think in the short term (maximum for the current year) within the framework of the requirements. They address current operational changes and hurdles. Decisions are made based on former experiences, existing indicators, and best practices. Activities deliver tangible results within hours, days, weeks, or months. The team and project leaders are responsible. They decide within the framework of their job description or an assignment.
Bottom line: The three ideal prospects, the far-sight, the overview, and the insight, exist simultaneously on corresponding layers. Pressure is created through the interaction of these views. These tensions arise when self-contained strategists do not see their intentions decisively implemented. Or when the tacticians cannot enforce their compromises. Or when the operators feel restrained by the higher levels. Depending on the point of view, the personal sensitivities, the lived openness, the previous experiences, and the assumed order of events influence the outcomes. The viable company manages the balancing act between these views.