Why is the middle ground between strategy and tactics so difficult to travel? Over the next month I will be writing about and around that question.
Trying to understand my successes and mistakes in this middle ground is the through line for much of my life. While I’ve chipped away at it, I haven’t done a sustained push to make sense of the journey or its trajectory. That kind of push needs some help, hence this exploratory visible effort.
What is this middle ground? In college I was part of a theater group that wrote a Broadway scale musical from scratch and staged it in the Spring. I was the production stage manager, which meant that I coordinated all rehearsals for the director and worked with the set designers, lighting designers, technical director, and musical director to make sure all of the pieces came together for opening night. I was also a student studying mathematics and taking a course about the math underneath managing complex projects.
I could take what I was learning in class, apply it directly to my extracurricular life, do less work, and get myself an easy A. You can guess where this ends. I squeaked out a C by admitting that I couldn’t figure out how to apply the technology to the creative chaos of producing an original show. And the curtain went up on opening night with the collective efforts of all of the cast and crew.
That was an early step on an exploration of how you mix people, processes, and technology to go from a germ of an idea to opening night. Opening night might involve actual curtains; it might also involve launching a new information system or an entirely new organization. What holds my attention is that middle space between the idea and its realization.
What I’ve learned is that there is a middle in this middle.
We know a lot about big ideas; we call it strategy in business and organizational settings.
We know a lot about the details of user interfaces, and writing code, and designing procedures, and arranging finances, and all of the tactics that go into a working organization.
In the middle, it gets fuzzy. As we move along that path from grand idea to final result, there is always an area of mysterious transition where we turn from grand thoughts to dirty work. We all know this. Some of us learn how to get across that transition; others seem trapped on one side or the other. Is there a way to eliminate or reduce the mystery and magic in the middle? This promises to be a messy but fruitful exploration. Stay tuned.