Specificity in Business

Or questions for Strategy and Tactics

There are two main questions you should have in the front of your mind whenever you go into a meeting to make a strategic or tactical decisions. Most of the time, you should only need one. These questions ensure that everyone in the meeting is working on the same job. These questions will ensure that the job at hand is done quickly and effectively.

The two questions are designed to get specific details in different areas.

The first question is: What, Specifically? This question is to get more precise information on the goal or outcome.

For example, during a meeting when someone says "We'll be reducing the sales force." There is no way that anyone could make a decision with this little information. Will reducing the sales force actually achieve the outcome? Ask the question, "What specifically do you hope to achieve from reducing the sales force?" The information you get from asking this question could save you signing the 'reduction-in-force' forms and loosing good people.

The second question is: How, Specifically? Once you have the specific goal, this question will get specific details about how a job is to be done.

For example, during the same meeting, someone says, "I want you to investigate new markets for our product X." Again, there is little information as to what method would be best. That's when the question "How specifically do you want me to investigate new markets?" will give you more information. As this may save you hours of wasted time and effort as you attempt to second guess the request.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, you really only need one of the two questions. When you are making the decisions, telling other people to do a job, the first (what) is the one you focus on. Mainly because, like any good manager, you will leave how the job is done up to your delegates. Like I said earlier, you only really need the 'what' question, but be prepared to ask (or even better answer) the 'how' question.

The question 'What specifically?' is a question designed for use in strategy. The answers it gets focus on the direction and overall outcomes.

The question 'How specifically?' elicits tactics. Once you have the strategy planned, the next step is to plan how you will achieve those goals.

While this may seems like common sense (and it is) I've been in too many meetings designed to achieve strategic or tactical goals that leaves all attendants confused as to what is to be done once the meeting is finished. Not to mention the problems caused when each of those people begin working towards different goals.

Michael Vanderdonk - 5/1/2003


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