When you’re learning a trade – especially one of the many trades that can be classified as “knowledge work” – there are a lot of expectations to manage before proficiency can even be recognized, much less measured.
Expect long hours. Expect trouble. Expect to drop balls. Expect results. Expect, eventually, the satisfaction that comes with knowing you’ve advanced our craft.
Do not, however, expect to be at the top of your game from day one.
You’ll be disappointed if you do. And, you’ll be disappointed if you are, in fact, the best you can be from the beginning. Early peaks don’t lend themselves to progress, or ongoing passion for your work.
I prefer to think of strategic growth – particularly for knowledge workers – in terms of three stages:
Begin as a Tactician
Even if you’re traditionally schooled, there’s always a gap between theory (school) and practice (work). Spending an appreciable amount of time doing the work of your stated trade, especially carrying out process and tactics developed by Strategists, and working with Analysts to measure your work, provides the absolute best basis for any measure of later expertise.
Excel as an Analyst
Once you’ve defined your work and abilities through protracted practice and repetition, trends will energe naturally. Spotting these trends, and their effects – and especially being able to determine the outcomes and the impact your work has had on a situation or ecosystem – is an important part of marshalling your efforts and determining how to get the best results for your next work.
Lead as a Strategist
Once your knowledge is backed by hands-on experience, and you’ve done enough to know the likely effects of a given pattern of actions, something wonderful happens; you can begin to build action plans for others, and reliably get results. You’ll know enough not to worry if the results you get aren’t the results you want – by the time you’re a Strategist, you’ll know how to roll with the unexpected too.
Learning, and earning, a respect for momentum, and building the skills required to promote sustainable growth are part of any professional development plan, intentional or not.
Where are you on the scale from Tactician to Strategist? And how are you certain?