Whatever… However…

I think we’re all familiar with teenagers who roll their eyes and say “whatever…” when they think you’ve said something totally irrelevant. In the grown-up world much the same thing happens, but it might better be spoken as “however…”

Let me explain.

Strategy and Tactics

Strategy and Tactics Photo: D. Bond

Propose something, say, to an organization, or a community, and the most sure-fire way to get people engaged – riled up – is to articulate some kind of specific thing. For example, if a new public building is proposed, show an artist’s rendering of the rough design. If there had been apathy before, there won’t be now. People have a natural inclination to focus on a detail, and can throw plenty of energy into getting their friends and family (plus letters to the editor) to get the project turned down, all based on some minute aspect. Here, it might have been that someone thought the windows were too small on the building.

Similarly, in social media, such as FaceBook, status posts that focus on something very everyday, say, what you always had for dinner before Halloween while growing up, will generate more responses than the latest government policy on the federal debt level.

I tend to think of these as either strategies or tactics. The “big” thing is the strategy; the “specific” thing is the tactic. Now, tactics are incredibly important – they form the way that things either get done, or don’t. Both are required.

But you can see quite easily which way different people are inclined by personality. “Big picture” people – the ones focused on the what won’t be rolling their eyes and saying “whatever.” They would be much more inclined to roll their eyes and say “however.” To them, any number of alternative tactics will get you to your destination, and which one it is is less critical than the fact that you’re moving towards a certain end-point.

On the other hand, some people may well be less concerned about where you’re going – your broader objective – than how you get there. Going to New York? Fine, just as long as I can fly business class. Increasing numbers of high-value customers? Sure, of course – but what advertising firm are we going to use… Building a new house? Great, what colour should we paint the walls?

So, the strategy’s the what, the tactic’s the how.

If you’re in charge of strategy: next time someone whines “whatever,” just smile, tell them to get busy and retort “however.”

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