You want to be successful
I don’t know what you want to do with your day, week or life. However I am sure that whatever it is, you want to be successful at it. The best way to achieve this is not to obsess on strategy, but to practice making tactical decisions.
Stategy and Tactics
Most advice talks about setting a big picture, and using this to drive the day to day decisions in the right direction. I will follow a common terminology of calling the big picture strategy
- What market is the business going to target?
- What properties in monopoly will a player buy?
- Which major sports competitions will an athlete target this year?
and the day to day details tactics:
- Hiring the great programmer for your development team.
- A chess player captures an unguarded pawn.
- An athlete has a good brakefast before a major event.
Strategic thinking is long term. It looks at the general shape a project. Tactical thinking is short term. It takes advantage of an opportunity that will not last (and may not have been planned for)
Get the strategic thinking sorted, then work on a tactical implementation. It will be clear which tactical opportunities to chase, and which to ignore.
This is true as far as it goes.
It’s (reasonably) easy to get strategy right. There is one strategy and plenty of time to think about it, and to refine it. While there are examples of bad strategies, (Microsoft ignoring the internet) most of the time, a strategy is sound.
It’s also reasonably easy to make good Tactical decisions, but also easy to get tactics wrong. Due to their short term nature, there is less time to think making it easy to not spot a problem. On deeper reflection it may turn out to not align with your strategy, or be a blunder.
Having a good strategy is of no use if it is supported by poor tactical decisions. Bad tactical decisions are as risky as a bad strategy, but far more common.
Improve Tactical Decision Making
With this in mind, it makes sense to work on how to reliably make good tactical decision. To help you, here is a simple checklist you can start with:
- Is there a critical need to respond to an external events in order to prevent damage?
- Is there an unlooked for opportunity available right now?
- Is there an opertunity created by the strategy that can be cached in now?
- What is the best move to further the strategy?
But the best way to improve tactical decision making is simple. Practice, and lots of it. The context doesn’t matter. Business, games, sports, holidays. Be aware whenever a tactical decision is taken. Afterwards assess the decision, was it good or bad? If it was bad, what would have been better? No doubt many will turn out to be bad. But with practice, the number of bad decisions will drop.
Does this work?
In a word, yes.
In Rapid Chess Improvement, Michael de la Maza points out that even at high level of chess, games are not won by superior strategy, but lost due to tactical blunders. By developing a training system based on increasing his tactical analysis his ranking increased four times more than was commonly accepted as possible.
In 2008 at the Beijing olympics, Usain Bolt broke the world 100m spint record. In interview afterwards he admitting to eating, not a sensible breakfast, but chicken nuggets. Further interviews revealed that he was unsure how he would react to the local Chinese food, so he tactically chose to eat food he knew would not upset his digestion.
There are always more tactical decisions waiting, and there is always room for improvement. While there may be no magical formula that will always produce the strongest tactical decision, the pursuit for improvement is one that is satisfying, and where continuing improvements are clearly visible.