On the Shoulders of Giants

by Brian SperonelloIcon

Grand Strategy vs. EXCELLENCE

I wrote a little bit about Robert Greene's idea of "Grand Strategy" in my last post, and it's been something on my mind a lot as of late. Most notably, I was struggling to reconcile the concept of Grand Strategy with Tom Peters' ideal of EXCELLENCE.

Tom Peters promotes the idea of pursuing "EXCELLENCE" in everything you do in his book The Little BIG Things. The book is based on the following idea:

If not EXCELLENCE, what?
If not EXCELLENCE now, when?"
The second chapter is titled: "Small Stuff" Matters. A Lot!

Originally I thought that this idea conflicted with Grand Strategy. Grand Strategy requires having a long-term perspective to guide your decisions so that you are not pulled off course by petty conflicts and immediate emergencies. It requires knowing what the critical steps are to reach your objective, and what is a distraction or procrastination, so that you can focus on the core steps for reaching your goal.

The reason I thought these two ideas conflicted originally is because, unless you are entirely in control of your own workload, it's nearly impossible to only spend time on the critically important. Usually a person is at least partially, if not entirely, assigned work by their superiors, and more often than not at least some of it is superfluous. So if you followed Peters' ideal to the letter, you would make sure that even these tasks were performed with EXCELLENCE, which would consume significantly more time and resources than completing them at a level that was acceptable but not EXCELLENT. This stands against the notion of Grand Strategy, since your time would be better spent working on more critical tasks.

That being said, this is not a license to be lazy and do less work just because you are given a "small" assignment. In the areas that matter it is absolutely critical to make sure every last detail is EXCELLENT. Going back to Peters' book, for the crucial elements in your Grand Strategy, the small things do matter "a lot," and should be meticulously completed.

The conclusion that I came to is that executing unimportant tasks quickly but satisfactorily, in order to concentrate more of your time on the difficult work that truly matters, is possibly the highest form of EXCELLENCE; even if some of the individual tasks are not completed at that level. The hardest part is making sure you know the difference.

This post stands on the shoulders of:

Robert Greene: The concept of being able to think long term, see the whole picture, and plan several steps ahead is what Robert Greene refers to as "Grand Strategy."

Tom Peters: The ideal of working towards "EXCELLENCE" in everything.


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