Strategist or tactician?

Strategist versus tactician — is there a difference between the words? Understanding and fully embracing that difference will make you a better hotelier. Let’s explore how it works.

Strategists are the big-picture idea generators and recommenders of this world. They are the ones who get the prestige for coming up with the winning concept that reaped a heavy payload down the road. Often a single thought or suggestion can save a whole company or launch it into an entirely new marketplace. Strategic planners, consultants and corporate advisors all fit this role for the purpose of helping an organization find that “next big thing” to propel it forward.

But while strategists can banter to no end in abstract terms about an operation, there comes a time when you have to execute. And this requires logistics and a stalwart tactician to coordinate this grand movement. As Einstein cleverly pointed out, “Innovation is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” Tacticians are the 99%, and they deserve far more attention and praise than they are currently getting. Another saying by Thomas A. Edison is also appropriate here: “Vision without execution is mere hallucination.”

Which of these two designations do you think is more important? For the hotel world, I’d argue that, even though a strategy can make or break a business, so much is resting on the tactics and execution that this is where the real battle lies. After all, the hospitality industry has no shortage of fresh and fascinating ideas. Some are simple, others are costly, but all of them require pounds of sweat to get off the ground.

Take guest service and social media. I am no stranger to conversing about these topics in abstract terms, but there comes a time when a manager actually has to orchestrate and monitor the day-to-day progression of any discussed concepts. Every hotelier knows it’s important to talk to guests with attentiveness and profuse enthusiasm, but who will be the one to oversee training, on-the-job inspections and reprimands? When it comes to social media, we all know we should be posting interesting and insightful content to our networks, but what exactly is this content going to be? Moreover, who specifically is going to take the photos/videos essential for frequent social engagement and respond to any follow-up?

Hence, I reiterate that given the variety and complexity of tasks necessary to keep a property running smoothly, the implementation and execution of strategic ideas is what really separates the bears from the cubs. Actions speak louder than words, after all. To disregard broad concepts for a minute, here are four suggestions to help make you a better tactician:

1. Make no immediate course corrections.

You spend months if not years developing a plan to hopefully improve your business. Once you’ve decided what you will do, proceed to do just that, but don’t reevaluate that plan until a few weeks or months from the start date. All good idea implementation processes require time. As a manager, if you don’t have faith it will work, then who will? Part of any plan should also include preset periodic reevaluation markers for a time well into the future. Stick to those, and don’t deviate.

2. Hit the ground running.

Once you get the green light to execute, don’t just run, but blast out of the starting gate. By “blast,” I mean grueling 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. days, six or seven days a week, for the first week or two. That way, if there are any glaring problems with the plan, they will be apparent sooner rather than later, thus affording you the maximal amount of time to solve the issues before it’s too late.

3. Provide role clarification.

Nothing can hamper logistics more than job overlap and too many meetings with too many people, which are extremely counterproductive. Instead, have one meeting at the start to divide and specify the role of each manager and team member down to daily, weekly and monthly tasks. The more you can clarify a person’s job details and goals, the more they can focus on performing to the best of their abilities.

4. Organize small teams.

One of the reasons there are too many meetings in organizations is because it’s deemed important that everyone is kept up-to-date on the latest progress and involved in the decision-making process. People don’t need to be “in the know” nearly as much as we are led to believe. In fact, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of a specific task, less information is often more, and isolated, independent work is far more effective than group work. By breaking a large team into smaller, more functional squads or pods, each individual member will have fewer lines of communication to maintain and can better focus on the work at hand.