Are you a strategy tourist?

Let me start by reassuring you: the chances that you are a strategy tourist are close to zero. You are proving you are interested in getting things done by reading this action-oriented article. (Unless, of course, you have mistaken this for something completely different).

But I’m sure you do know a strategy tourist.

Most likely you know plenty of them, since strategy tourists – those individuals who lack the motivation, skills and knowledge to turn a strategy into performance – can be found in abundance in most organisations. They are easily recognisable by the following characteristics:

  • They love big words to make themselves sound more important;
  • Their power drive is much larger than their achievements drive;
  • They use expensive consultants for everything they do;
  • They like to restart a new strategy exercise every year; and
  • And yes, they are somewhat lazy.
I call the opposite of a strategy tourist a strategy execution hero. An individual dedicated to performance and to getting things done. You can find them in all disciplines but they do share the same competences, traits and beliefs. I’m sure you also know some.

And an organization needs more heroes and fewer tourists, won’t you agree?
I believe the behaviour of strategy tourists offer us a very useful career guide. They show us how not behave. So take advantage of all the strategy tourists you know and develop opposite behaviour.

The strategy tourist: 22 behaviours

  1. In all things, focus on yourself first. You are more important than the organization you work for;
  2. Create diversions when things get difficult. How? Get a consultant on board, preferable a firm with a good reputation, and launch a new strategy;
  3. If things still don’t improve, blame it on the consultant;
  4. Develop your power play skills and use them as often as you can;
  5. Surround yourself with people less smart than yourself;
  6. Don’t support hero promotions. High-quality people can make your life miserable when they get into key jobs;
  7. Change jobs regularly to outrun major execution challenges;
  8. Once you arrive in your new job, tell everyone how bad you predecessor did and start from zero (preferably with a consultant). This buys you at least a year.;
  9. Focus obsessively on the short run. Go for quick wins that put you in the spotlight. Define long term “something we can focus on once the basics are in place”. This buys you another year;
  10. Create walls between departments. Promote ‘Us against Them’. It creates a great diversion from the real issues;
  11. Keep crucial knowledge close to you. Avoid sharing or, if you have no other option, do share and tell everyone how important knowledge diffusion is. At least you get some benefit;
  12. Compromise over the important company issues, but dig in and fight forever over smaller topics that are important for you and your career;
  13. Learn to identify other tourists and bond as hard as you can. Long lunches are ideal: they are effective and enjoyable;
  14. Inflate budgets. This gives you enough money to fund you pet projects or cut costs without any effort when you are forced to do so;
  15. Fervishly promote work-life balance. It’s a popular topic and it gives you a legitimate reason to go to the golf course when the sun is shining or quit at 17:00pm;
  16. Take lots of time to promote yourself and actively campaign for a better job;
  17. Blame the market, other departments or poor IT-systems for the fact that you are not taking brave, independent action;
  18. Always take credit for the work your team did. Never take the blame;
  19. Try to join as many steering committees as possible, but avoid taking on responsibility as a sponsor or project manager;
  20. When a difficult problem shows up, turn it into a project and delegate this to an eager hero in another department. Call it a learning experience or talent exchange. When the project is finished, make sure the person gets a promotion to a job far away from your territory. They might know too much;
  21. Learn to outlast passionate resistance from heroes by quietly ignoring it and waiting for it to go away; and
  22. Develop a good head hunter network and take advantage of your contacts when you feel that you cannot outrun the heroes anymore. Start again, but much wiser, in another company.
Jeroen de Flander is an expert in corporate strategy and author of The Execution Shortcut. 

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