Strategy and Unbalance

Unbalance will beat balance when there is a goal and strategy being pursued.

Balance in life is an idea thrown around often. It is commonly thought to be the answer to fulfillment and happiness by way of maintaining an equilibrium between all of the demands that are put upon a person. Remaining balanced is seen as the way that a person keeps their life “in check”, so to speak, not allowing any one area of life to take up an unreasonable or unhealthy portion of their time.

Balance is compromise. Said another way – balance can only be achieved through compromise. When balance is the goal, compromise is the method by which one is able to reach that goal. Prioritizing balance is a symptom of one who does not have a larger goal in place nor a strategy to achieve it. Without a goal or strategy, a person is simply existing. There is likely a lack of drive to achieve anything beyond comfort and contentment and so balance becomes the default goal. 

When there is a larger goal or purpose in a person’s life there is a drive to achieve a specific end. To achieve that specific end they will need a strategy. That strategy will specify the steps and actions needed to make progress toward the goal. Such a strategy will not focus on balance but rather on progress. Driving progress creates opportunity for unbalance and it is in an unbalanced state where real progress is made. 

Unbalance will always beat balance when there is a real goal being worked toward. It is because the unbalance will allow a person to be selective in their pursuits – to say “no” to all things that don’t support or align with the goal being pursued. Focusing one’s resources and abilities toward a single end will increase the effectiveness of those efforts where spreading one’s limited resources across many pursuits serves to make the impacts of those same efforts less potent. 

Below are the tactics and considerations needed to make an unbalanced strategy work effectively:

1. Have a clear, specific goal and know the strategy.

Strategy was discussed in the introduction but is important enough to be repeated as the first consideration. Unbalance is to be used for a specific purpose and that specific purpose must be known and understood in order to keep efforts in alignment with achievement. 

The idea of balance is thrown around in response to those who do not use unbalance as a tool but rather those that are too far unbalanced without having a larger strategy in play. Consider the advice given to workaholics – those that live and breathe their work while other aspects of their lives are left in disrepair. Often the workaholic does not have great relationships and their health is in need of work. Their work is their addiction and their addiction negatively impacts other areas of their lives. This subset of the population is extremely unbalanced and it is not a healthy existence. The problem is not simply that they work too much, though, it is that they work too much to the detriment of everything else around them. Said differently, it is not the amount of work they subject themselves to, it is that their work does not support anything outside of simply working more. 

2. Understand the degree of unbalance to be pursued.

Think of unbalance as a circle within which someone operates. The center of the circle is perfect balance and each step away from the center is a radius increasing the level of unbalance in any one direction. There should be a specific number of “steps” that one is comfortable taking away from perfect balance before they cross a threshold into an area that works against their goals. This is the threshold of strategic unbalance to harmful unbalance. 

The degree of strategic unbalance is defined by the goals and strategy put in place by any one person. There is no standard deviation from the center that is applicable to all people but rather the deviation must be defined by each individual.

Going back to the workaholic discussed in point 1, let’s take another look at their habits. We discussed that the problem is not the amount of work that said workaholic subjects themselves to; rather, the issue is that work is an addiction that controls them. Work is often done at the expense of other things like health and relationships. 

Now, what if a certain person’s strategy is established to be that unbalanced? What if a person has very aggressive goals and their strategy to achieve their goals is to be extremely off-balance to the point that they resemble a workaholic? Would that change anything?

It would. In this instance, the workload taken on is intentional and supporting a larger goal. An extremely unbalanced strategy can be effective if there are very specific goals being pursued and the timeframe of such extreme unbalance is defined. I wouldn’t recommend sacrificing health and relationships to achieve a goal, but I cannot speak in definitive terms for all. 

3. Make focus cyclical and put other disciplines in maintenance mode temporarily.

Humans cannot focus on too many things at the same time without performance slipping and so we must decide what few disciplines of our strategy we will focus on at any given time. When it is decided that one will focus on a select few disciplines, the others must go into maintenance mode while the chosen disciplines are built. This will allow progress made elsewhere to be maintained while building specific areas of focus. 

It must be understood that maintenance mode must be temporary. Maintenance is not progress and so one cannot allow certain disciplines to go into maintenance mode for too long or else that area will start to atrophy and begin to regress. It is important that one’s focus in an unbalanced strategy be cyclical – focus must shift on a chosen interval in order to ensure that all areas are being developed without losing ground in any one area. 

Cyclical focus is how one is able to grow in many areas while benefiting from the focus afforded by an unbalanced strategy. Whereas prioritizing balance will make everything of the same priority, cycling focus in an unbalanced strategy allows for a defined and meaningful level of priority and; therefore, the ability to truly excel in many areas. 

Wrap Up

This Transmission is an important part of the Initiated Lifestyle to understand. It is one thing to be motivated to do more and work harder, but one must also prioritize and understand how to work smart to get the most impact from their efforts. 

The ideas of an unbalanced strategy – having and understanding goals and strategy, defining a degree of unbalance, and cycling focus – are all basic ideas needing to be understood to lead both oneself and to lead a team. As a leader one must be able to see the larger goals and strategy and understand how the tactics being employed work to support that larger mission. Cycling focus, prioritizing efforts, and unbalancing resources to address specific issues are all tactics used by effective leaders, people, and teams to make the most efficient and effective use of resources. 

Unbalance will always beat balance. It is the difference between being effective in a few areas at a time and being ineffective in all areas at once. 

Set a plan and keep resources fluid enough that they can be shifted into those areas that need them. Cycle through the different areas of focus until all areas are built to where they need to be. It is a process. Meaningful change is not quick but takes discipline and time to build.

Yours in strength,

-Jersey

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Simplicity

As one’s experience grows, they must remember that simplicity will always be effective.

The end of April brings with it the last Transmission on Integrity for the month. We have talked about what Integrity means, how it benefits us, and how truth plays its role. To round out the month, I want to explore simplicity, an idea that may be lost as one continues their study and growth.

It is a common progression as one gets more educated their understanding of a concept becomes more intricate. This is expected as large topics continue to be broken down into smaller and more specific pieces. Details are uncovered that bring new questions and further research. This is part of learning.

As one continues to study and get more specific, one must remember that in practice, simplicity will reign supreme. Simplicity does not indicate a lack of understanding; rather, the simplicity we are talking about here is the simplicity that can only be found from a place of intimate knowledge and understanding. The simplicity being discussed here is the simplicity in approach and execution. 

Below are tactics that display this point.

Ask the right questions

There are a select number of core issues that create many of the problems that we humans try to answer for. Many of the issues that show themselves on the surface are simply manifestations of these core issues – things like fear, insecurity, trust, relevance, legacy, and self-image, to name some.

The way to enact simplicity is to ask the right questions to understand what the core issue at play is. Once that is known, a simple plan can be built to address it and move on. 

Understand. Plan. Execute. – this is simplicity at its finest. Three words, three steps as a template for any obstacle or goal that one wants to achieve. 

Prioritize Simplicity

I hear a lot: “I’m scatterbrained” or “I’m all over the place” followed up with “that’s just the way my brain works”. This mentality is a deficiency and is symptomatic of one who complicates simple problems. Those same people that make these exclamations are likely the same people that will disagree with this entire Transmission. These people will disagree with the idea that complex problems can be driven down to core concepts and issues. They will state that people are complicated and this view is far too simplistic; that the problems we face as humans have too many layers to be looked at so directly. 

And to those people I say, “think whatever you want, but keep an open mind here and learn something”.

To prioritize simplicity one must learn to stay as far out of the weeds of the issue as one can while remaining effective in addressing the issue at hand. It is rarely necessary to understand every fine detail of a situation in order to resolve it – this is because of what was said earlier – most problems we face are manifestations of only a handful of core issues. Sticking to the larger ideas and resolving the big issues will likely resolve the little issues whereas to try to resolve each of the little issues will do nothing but introduce confusion, dead ends, and additional time to the final resolution.

Less is more

This is one strategy one can employ to simplify near anything. Finding a way to communicate with less words, enact processes with less steps, or develop systems with less pieces are all easy ways to simplify. 

This ties together a few points above. This can only be done effectively when there is a deep knowledge from where simplicity is founded and one asks the right questions to get the full understanding of what the core issues are. It is only when the problem is understood and one has a bag of tactics and ideas to pull from that one can begin to parse down their words and approach into something that will be maximally effective with the minimal amount of effort.

Looking at this from the other side, a lack of understanding or lack of knowledge is the fast lane to complication. Here is what I mean.

When one does not take the time to understand the problem they are facing, they will come up with a solution to what is thought to be the problem.

Sooner rather than later, though, that plan will be realized to be incomplete when the issue remains or the situation worsens. Maybe some tangential issue comes into the picture, maybe the real issue that lingers beneath the surface continues to fester and get worse. Now, as played, the team has already begun down the path with this plan that is now found to be incomplete. The next natural step is to amend the plan – put a new process into place to address the new issues. Chances are that the proper questions were not asked at this fork either, and so, down the road, another problem may present itself. A few iterations of this and you have a set of extremely complicated processes with many moving parts because one needed to keep putting band-aids on the problems as they came up.

This cycle is generally additive because there is often no opportunity to remove functions and processes that are already there as they are addressing the problems that came before. Adding new processes is the antithesis of simplification.

Accept Simplicity

We must accept simplicity as an answer for the idea to become more prevalent. It is important to understand that just because something is simple does not mean that it is unrefined or under developed. If simple is effective, there is no reason to develop additional complexity. 

Simplicity involves work; and work is always effective. It is the overly-complex plans that attempt to outsmart the problem by attempting to shortcut the solution. This must be understood and embraced for simplicity to be real. 

Use simplicity as the powerhouse that it is. Get ahead.

Yours in strength,

-Jersey

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You Are As Good As Your Systems

The less you test your discipline, the more you can test yourself in other areas.

Each decision that one makes is an opportunity to succeed or to fail; therefore minimizing decisions through automation will reduce the potential for tactical failures.

Automation is a powerful concept. It says that anything that needs to be done repeatedly should just be set up into a repeatable system. A system can be a schedule, a procedure, or some other organization of activities that has a definitive time, period, and sequence through which it gets done.

The concept of automation is straightforward enough to understand and implement; so instead, let’s discuss the advantages afforded to someone who runs highly automated systems. Automation offers few specific advantages:

  1. It defines the amount of time one can reasonably expect to spend on a certain task

A system helps a person to plan around a specific activity. Take for instance a morning routine. This is a system that one puts into place and is the same few things they do every morning to get ready for their day. This will have a time commitment associated with it and it will take that specific amount of time each morning to get done. It is a system – repeatable and schedulable.

  1. Takes the guesswork out of when these tasks will get done.

Consider a training schedule. One such instance will say that a person must train 4 nights a week. A person should decide on which 4 nights they will work out each week and maintain that schedule. They have systematized their schedule to block out the same 4 nights each week for training. 

  1. Allows for one to maneuver around interruptions. 

If being realistic – there will be interruptions to these systems. Work will run late, a doctor appointment will be scheduled, or family will come into town. To say that once a system is in place that it will be followed with no deviation is not realistic.

With strong systems in place it is easy to work around these interruptions with minimal impact to the larger progress toward the goal.

Here is what I mean:

By knowing how long a certain activity takes, one will have the flexibility to find that chunk of time somewhere that better fits around the interruption. If it is defined that a training session takes an hour, all one must do is work a one hour chunk into their schedule to go bang out a workout. This immediately quantifies the amount of time required and simplifies finding a block of time where it fits. Further, having a schedule for the amount of times one must train in a week helps to determine on which days one can fit in these training sessions. 

Thinking of this a bit differently, with these two things figured out, one will no longer have to plan activities, rather, they are just moving blocks of time around on a schedule. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, necessarily, it just matters that one blocks out the necessary chunk of time to get it done. It takes all of the ancillary information out of the actual planning and scheduling and forces one to get the work done.

Said yet another way, all of the subjective nuances of a task are removed leaving only the objective blocks on a schedule. With this schedule, one simply has to either follow through on the activities or choose to fail; which is a far different thought than having to choose to succeed, as is the case when there is not a system established.

Remaining disciplined is already challenging enough – there are more more things that will work against an individual than for them in this regard. The more one can simplify and automate those systems that help them to remain disciplined, the less thought one has to put toward specific tasks. 

The more one tests their discipline, the more opportunity one gives themself to fail – so one should aim to test themselves less often in this way.

In practicing automation, discipline becomes mechanical. Rather than having to decide to be disciplined, one will instead have to decide to be undisciplined – which is arguably a far harder decision to force oneself to make.

You are only going to be as good as your systems – the less you test your discipline, the less often you will fail.

Fail less.

Yours in strength,

-Jersey

A Disciplined Plan is a Proper Plan

Discipline practiced in the planning phase will pay dividends far larger than the initial resource investment.

The planning stage of any new goal is the first and most impactful stage to mission success. Armed with a good, actionable plan, the success rates of an individual or a team increases. This may beg the question, “What are the ingredients to a good plan?” 

There are many necessary ingredients and their proportions will change depending on the many unique factors and challenges that lay ahead; however, practicing discipline in the planning phase will significantly impact the quality of the plan created. The level of discipline in a plan can be seen in a number of ways. Three common displays of discipline in planning are:

  1. Defining the end point of the planning phase and stopping once that point is reached. Define the goals needed to be planned, to what level of detail, and what is to be left to field tactics along the path. The difference between planning (strategy) and tactics is expanded upon here.
  2. Commiting time and resources to put a plan together at the outset of the pursuit. It is tempting to jump into a new pursuit and figure it out along the way. This approach works for simpler pursuits with minimal moving parts, but in more complicated situations and especially if you are in a team setting, there are too many variables to be managed that decisions cannot be made “on the fly” without causing confusion and wasting resources.
  3. Taking inventory of available resources and skills. Setting the baseline for what is available and known against what will need to be acquired and developed to ensure mission success is a critical step in ensuring that the development of the plan will not overestimate existing resources and be forced to a limp by a weak assumption that cannot be realized. 

Point one is fairly straight-forward and so we will not spend a lot of effort discussing it. This is simply stating to define what the end looks like before one begins the process. Without this step, there will be no indication of when the plan is complete and enacting the plan can begin. This contributes to some trying to come up with a “perfect” plan or continuing to push off taking action because they are “not ready”. If one can define what a workable plan looks like and the high points it needs to hit, they can start taking action once those boxes are checked.

Point two is a little more interesting. This point is prioritizing the efforts needed to make a plan in the first place. Often, when one has an idea they would like to pursue, the automatic response is to dig right in and get going. They will purchase items they believe necessary, they will rearrange their schedules to create time for this new pursuit, they will start producing whatever output they feel is going to get them closer to the end. 

The reality of the situation is that this approach produces a lot of waste – wasted resources in the way of spent money and time that is not providing value to the end goal. 

A planning phase may be seen as wasted efforts in itself – it is taking up time and resources to put a plan together; however, more often than not, the resources expended to establish a good plan will pay for itself many times over in the form of saved money and efforts through minimizing pursuits of those things not in line with the plan.

Finally point three forces the plan to assess and have a real conversation with oneself about where they and their team are at, and more importantly, what will be needed to ensure the plan completes successfully.

Especially when pursuing a personal goal it is too easy to overestimate one’s abilities or underestimate the challenges that are involved in doing something seemingly simple. Ignorance is bliss – one simply doesn’t know what they don’t know.

The tendency to underestimate the time and effort required to get to one’s goals is common. Whether we don’t want to believe the amount of work we will need to put in to be successful or we think we can achieve more than we can, allowing oneself to create a plan with these poor assumptions is priming one to hit a wall somewhere along the line that they must then address while risking the possibility of getting discouraged and quitting.

This exercise will further inform the timeframe one gives themself to complete their goal and overall creates a more competent, actionable plan.

A disciplined plan followed by disciplined action will result in goals accomplished on time and on budget. 

You are not an exception to these common rules. Practice discipline, remain present and honest with yourself and create bulletproof plans of action.

Go forth and conquer.

Yours in strength,

-Jersey

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Strategy and Tactics in Action

The follow on to our last Transmission – we explore the application and practice of strategic and tactical planning.

In the last Transmission, the concepts of strategy and tactics were discussed as the two necessary pieces of a bulletproof plan to success. This Transmission will describe how these concepts are applied in both a team and in an individual setting along with some suggestions for how one can maximize the effectiveness of each.

Team Setting

A team setting for purposes of this discussion implies that there are many people organized into some hierarchy to provide clear custody of responsibilities. By definition, the hierarchy will have higher and lower level members. As noted previously, the spectrum of responsibilities in strategic planning to tactical planning shifts from one to the other as one moves from the top of the hierarchy to the bottom – more on this later.

A large challenge to overcome in a team environment is the dispatch of information throughout each of the team members. Each team member must have an exposure to the larger strategy allowing each member to buy into the team’s mission as well as understand how their specific role feeds into the larger strategy of the team. This creates a sense of ownership and understanding amongst the team members and fosters collective strength in team values.

At the lowest levels of a team, there must be an expectation set of taking tactical action. These boots-on-the-ground members of the team are responsible for planning and executing their responsibilities as dictated by the larger team objectives. These members must be provided the latitude to make decisions to maximize efficiency and resource expenditure. To allow for success in these endeavors, these team members must be provided the understanding of how their decisions and actions will add or detract from the overall team mission which enforces the importance noted of each team member having exposure and visibility to the larger strategy at play.

Above the lowest-ranking team members are the tactical planners. These tacticians are responsible for putting the tactical plan together for their team and to disperse the specific tactical objectives to each of the subordinate team members. The responsibilities at this level are to bridge the gap between the strategy and the field conditions and to tie the tactical pursuits into the larger strategic pursuits. This level is responsible for overseeing and managing tactical resources both materially and in manpower.

At the highest level of the hierarchy, and subsequently the furthest removed from the tactics at the field level, are the strategic planners. The highest level of the hierarchy should refrain from dictating tactical approaches for that would violate the principles of decentralized command and result in sub-optimal tactical planning. This will not be due to lack of tactical abilities, but rather from lack of intimacy with field conditions and resources. It is not the job of strategists to think tactically. It is imperative that the strategic thinkers are thinking strategically while incorporating the feedback they are getting from their lower levels or field units.

Of course, this is an oversimplification for explanation of the concept and the success of a team depends on many other things. In the real world, a team will contend with disengaged members, personality clashes, etc.; however, I would posit that if a clear hierarchy and delegation of responsibilities is established and maintained early, engagement across the team will increase over the course of the mission.

For the Individual

As an individual, the same principles of strategy and tactics will apply toward a mission or goal; however, the application will look different. As there is no hierarchy to separate responsibilities, time intervals will serve to delineate the hierarchy described above.

As a single entity, the individual will be required to be both the strategic and tactical planner. Note; however, both roles cannot be filled at the same time for there are different goals to be met by each process. As described above, strategy comes to form in a general flow with a defined end goal. The boundaries and ground-rules are set within the strategy. The tactics are the specific moves that will carry the mission from one milestone to the next along the larger path of the strategy.

It is the time interval on which an individual plans tactically and strategically that will determine which form of reflection and pursuit one is working on at any given time. Strategy shall be set and reviewed on longer intervals in the magnitude of years where tactical planning is generally done on weekly and monthly intervals; depending on the overall scope and length of time of a particular mission.

This is shown in the construction of a 10 year goal. Such a goal will will be of significant enough scope that there will be intermediate milestones set to provide context and frame of reference for the rate of progress being made. Without such milestones, it will be more difficult to understand how one is tracking toward the larger goal.

Driving to these milestones will be the work of the individual tactics employed to address each challenge along the way. Without intermediate tactics, it will be hard to make a strategic plan that provides the flexibility to compensate for the conditions of life.

As a side note, if a 10 year plan does not require milestones and tactics, the goal is far too small in scope and the reader should ask themselves why this goal cannot be achieved in far less time.

Challenge yourself to pursue large goals both for yourself and with the teams you lead or influence. Commit to a goal that is just outside of your current comfort level, then put a plan together to crush it.

Yours in strength,

-Jersey

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Strategy vs. Tactics

Discussion of strategic and tactical planning, the differences, and why both are needed to ensure success.

Accomplishing significant feats require time and effort. In order to challenge and change the status quo one must commit to the process and construct a plan of attack as lacking an appropriate plan increases the chances that the mission will not be successful. A plan is comprised of a balanced combination of strategy and tactics to engage the long term goal through a sequence of smaller steps. Both are needed to remain task focused and realize success.

Definitions

Defining the difference between strategy and tactics will do much of the heavy lifting toward providing the required context for this discussion.

Strategy is the high-level roadmap employed to get from the current position to the completion of a mission. Starting with wide swipes and developing further, a strategy will begin to orient one on their path to mission completion. The strategy will provide order and sequence to circumvent pitfalls and begin to bring context to required techniques and resources. A good strategy continues developing to strike a balance between specificity in direction of action and the ability to freely maneuver as real-time conditions dictate. The strategy should provide a clear picture of the finish line and define the outer bounds to confine and direct the tactics employed toward the end goal.

Tactics, then, are those individual maneuvers, techniques, and systems put in place at each step of a larger strategy to secure incremental progress toward the final goal. The latitude left within the outer bounds of a strategy is navigated using tactics. Tactics are more task focused and a short term plan on how to navigate the current opposition and support the overall strategy. Tactics are more direct and tangible actions and are dynamic in considering the changes taking place in the field.

Interaction of Strategy and Tactics

The interaction of strategy and tactics should now start coming into focus. Strategy provides the boundaries that tactics will operate within.

Balance is key as a strategy that is prescriptive will become too rigid and remove the flexibility necessary to make real-time decisions in the field. A strategy too wide will not focus the tactics employed and will allow tactical efforts to be exerted in too many directions diminishing the ultimate effectiveness of the efforts.

Strategy and tactics are relevant in all situations and environments in which there is a goal to be met.

They may have won the battle, but we will win the war.

This saying depicts the interaction of strategy and tactics in successes on the battlefield; the original example of the larger concept discussed here. Thinking of war as the overall strategy employed to bring ultimate success, the battles are seen as tactical wins that serve that larger purpose.

This also implies that tactics may be volatile in the short term and that a win or loss in a tactical pursuit does not dictate the larger success of the strategy; which is true. The level at which one looks at tactics is from a closer viewpoint than one looks at the overall strategy. Tactics are considered on a micro-scale whereas strategy is on the macro-scale. Tactical engagements may be won or lost but will ultimately aim to trend along the larger strategy. Without vision of the macro, the micro will inevitably come off course.

To be ultimately successful and rise above the volatility of tactical wins and losses, strategic and a tactical perspectives are required to ensure that the tactics are serving to progress the strategy. Without regular review and study of both levels of planning, the overall concentration and effectiveness of the tactical efforts will be diminished. The awareness of these ideas and the interconnection of the two will put one ahead of their opposition. Effectively building strong strategies supported by strong tactics is the recipe for sure success.

Strategize well and attack using strong tactics to ensure victory.

Yours in stregth,

-Jersey

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