Actions over time

Draw a pyramid. Divide it into three levels. The bottom level is composed of tactics. Short, contextually orientated maneuvers. The second level is strategy. It is made up of higher level objectives and ideas that guide the deployment of tactics. The tip of the pyramid is grand strategy. It is the ultimate aim, the overarching ambition. Now, next to the pyramid, draw a vertical arrow, then label it “operations”. 

The definition of “operations” is the application of tactics over time. I didn’t come up with this model. Sebastian Marshall did. It’s what he and his company specialise in. It’s a nice way of thinking about how to manage your professional life and workflows.

But we can use this model and transfer it elsewhere. In the same way that serial entrepreneurs think in formulas like Uber for X, or Take Y and add AI, we can think of The application of Z over time. And the particular Z I want to focus on here is judgement. Specifically, the judgements we form and the opinions we have of others.

Work is stressful. We have a high value client coming in for a showdown. We’re on the verge of losing them, so everything and everyone has to be on point. There can be no mistakes. And naturally, with such a high stakes meeting occurring imminently, everyone is on edge. Especially my manager. I asked him a question earlier, just to clarify something before it all kicks off, and he tore me apart. I left with my tail between my legs.

If I were to judge my manager based on the single encounter above, I’d definitely rate him as a douchebag. But I’ve been working with him for a few years now so I know that, most of the time, he’s considerate and kind and honest.

I’m fond of the idea that you should judge others (and yourself) by what they do, not what they say. That way, you see what they’re actually like. Because after all, words conceal and actions reveal. It is through our actions (or non-actions) that we communicate our mood, beliefs, ideas, philosophies, desires, loves and hates to the world. 

But just as operations is the application of strategies and tactics over time, we must remember that the best way to judge someone else’s character, or our own, is to take account of actions and decisions taken over time. Yes, form your picture of people by what they do, instead of what they say. But make the picture you form more accurate by introducing an element of time.