Note: this article is not an endorsement of any particular POV, nor does it seek to endorse the book mentioned in the post.
The title of this post is a quote from the “The Gamble” by Thomas E. Ricks. The subject of the book is a breakdown of the change in the Iraq war strategy since early 2007 and the driving force behind this change, General David Petraeus.
I am not that far into it, but have been struck by some of the parallels and “universal” constants that affect the ability of an organization (in this case the U.S. military) to achieve its goals. Ricks points out that one of biggest problems that Petraeus (and the organization) faced is the lack of clear goals and a series of steps or tactics to achieve them, which are the foundation for any kind of strategic engagement:
“They really hadn’t carried out a serious strategic review that asked the basic questions: What are we trying to do – that is, what are our key goals? How are we going to do it – that is, what course of action will we pursue? Does that course promise to achieve those goals? What sort of resources – people, time money – are likely to be required to reach those goals?”
These basic questions (and their answers) are fundamental aspects of any strategic approach, regardless of the organization and the task at hand. Makes perfect sense — but sometimes this crucial step is either overlooked, downplayed, or misunderstood, which can lead to a jump to tactical solutions or recommendations without a strong strategic foundation (Kelley Mitchell highlighted this fact in the second post of her series on social media strategy).
This is why we try to start each engagement with an “investigate” phase, where (among other things) the project goals and audience are clearly defined, measurement criteria are set, and tactics are identified to achieve the project objectives. It’s not always easy, and honestly it’s not the “sexiest” part of what we do – but it’s nonetheless an important step that should not be underestimated or overlooked.
Post by Keith Calleja