Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tactics Trump Strategy - a problem for progressives

Nobel Prize-winning economist Herbert Simon has been quoted as saying, "Short term thinking drives out long term strategy, every time." A more measured way to say this same thing is: tactical considerations tend to trump strategy. This the way Bill Bradley phrased the notion in an March 30, 2005 op-ed in the New York Times called A Party Inverted.

For reasons that should be obvious, it is a problem for progressives when tactics trump strategy. Other than relying on pure luck, the only way you can expect to win is with an articulated strategy, particularly if your opponent(s) is powerful and strategically adept.

Consequently the tendency of tactical considerations to trump strategy must be consciously resisted. A good practice would be to always put tactical discussions in a strategic context. How does the proposed tactical activity fit within the strategic plan and its priorities? How will the employment of the tactic move things forward in the strategic plan?

That way you avoid fighting battles you don't have to fight or climbing hills that don't get you closer to your objective. That way you avoid fighting the battle in the terrain your opponent has prepared.


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