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My career at Facebook started in 2006 as its first intern. Three years later, I became a rookie manager at the age of 25. Today, I manage an organization of hundreds of people. This path has brought countless new challenges, mistakes, and lessons, many of which are laid out in my new book, The Making of a Manager, a field guide for new managers.
One of the key areas of growth for me as a manager was strategy. As I progressed in my career, I knew that there was an expectation that the work I did would become increasingly strategic. But what does that really mean? This is what I used to think it meant:
- Setting metric goals.
- Thinking outside the box to come up with new ideas.
- Working harder and motivating others to work harder.
- Writing long documents.
- Creating frameworks.
- Drawing graphs on a whiteboard.
As a result, I tried to do as many of the above as I could. I brainstormed. I wrote epic, sweeping documents. I familiarized myself with the language of KPIs and measurements. Before each new task, I gave myself a mental check. This, I thought, must be strategizing.
Unfortunately, I was doing the equivalent of strumming a guitar and assuming I was making music. The core problem was that I didn’t really understand what strategy was. Because nobody had ever explained it to me, I figured that being strategic was simply engaging in high-level product and business discussions.
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What a strategy actually entails is a set of actions designed to achieve a particular objective. It’s like a route designed to get you from point A to point B. Now, there might be many routes you could take, so a more interesting question is: “What makes for a good strategy?” For that, I subscribe to Richard Rumelt’s definition: “A good strategy is a set of actions that is credible, coherent, and focused on overcoming the biggest hurdle(s) in achieving a particular objective.”
Let’s begin by breaking this down into discrete parts:
- Achieving a particular objective: It should be clear what success looks like.
- Set of actions: There should be a concrete plan.
- Credible and coherent: The plan needs to make sense and hold up under scrutiny without having conflicting components.
- Focused on overcoming the biggest hurdle(s): There should be a clear diagnosis of the biggest problems to be solved, and the plan should focus resources on overcoming them.