March 9, 2018

Opportunity or distraction?

“How do I tell the difference between an opportunity and a distraction?”

This question is the reason strategy exists.

A client who you do training for asks to hire you to do some development. A client who you do development for asks to hire you to do some project management. A client who you do project management for asks to hire you to do some training.

Without a clearly defined strategy, you have no way to sort out which of these are opportunities and which are distractions.

In other words, a strategy will help you decide what to say no to.

“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”—Steve Jobs

Okay... so what exactly is a strategy?

A strategy is a particular approach to achieving an objective.

(So... you should have an objective before you start thinking about strategy.)

Objective first, strategy second, tactics third.

Here’s an example from the silver screen:

Objective: “Destroy the Death Star.”

Strategy: “Take the Empire off guard by sending an absurdly small force to exploit a critical vulnerability.”

Tactics: “Send 3 small squadrons of x-wings. Get close to surface of the space station and head for the exhaust port. Stay deep in the approach trench to avoid surface guns. Once the TIE fighters show up, have two x-wings flank the leader and defend against enemy fire...”

(So... when Luke shuts of his targeting computer in favor of using The Force, he was making a tactical decision. The strategy and objective were unchanged.)

Soooo... until you have an objective and strategy worked out, it’s going to be hard to tell the difference between an opportunity and a distraction.

Or I suppose another way to look at it is this:

If you don’t have a strategy, everything looks like an opportunity.

Labeling something a distraction would require that you have a strategy to be distracted from.



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