Kaleidoscope 5/40: You've Probably Never Heard of Carl von Clausewitz...

Kaleidoscope 5/40: You've Probably Never Heard of Carl von Clausewitz...
Carl von Clausewitz pouring over a map — with his ever important kaleidoscope / compass. DALL-E

You've probably never heard of Carl von Clausewitz (or any other 18th century Prussian generals for that matter), but he has influenced my thinking (and probably your thinking) more than you realize.

Carl was one of the first thinkers to crystalize the ideas of Vision, Strategy & Tactics as a cascading series of decisions.

Now, Carl applied them to war. Specifically the then radical idea that war was an extension of politics, rather than an act all of its own.

And while I'm not doing military strategy or attempting to ward off Napoleon, when something isn't working — from my love life to my business — Carl's Vision, Strategy & Tactics is the first place I look.

Which brings us to today's question:

What isn't working — my vision, strategy or tactics?

Before we dive into how I apply VST to my marriage (yes, I have a patient husband), let's start with just a quick run down of what vision, strategy and tactics are (remember yesterday's question – but what exactly does that mean?!?).

While you could fill an entire library with books on VST, here's the quick and dirty version. Let's think about VST as a map:

Vision is all about the final destination. It's about knowing where you want to get to. It's about the future.
Strategy is looking at the path — should we go over the mountains or to the south of them? Take the risky shortcut or play it safe? It needs to evaluate the options and decide on the best way to the destination.
Tactics are the turn-by-turn directions and management of the actual trip. They are the actions. Do we know exactly where we are going today? Do we have enough snacks?

Now a lot of people are familiar with the idea of applying this to their work and their business... a lot fewer people use these ideas in their personal lives. But I've found that is a place that they really shine.

Back before we were married, Friday nights used to cause a lot of conflict in my house. Michael would come home from work ready to chill out and do nothing... and I would come home from work ready to go out and celebrate.

Nothing in our VST stack was aligned... and it showed. And while I'd love to say we immediately sat down and had an adult discussion that resulted in us both getting exactly what we wanted... that's not exactly what happened.

We both bristled against the other's tactics — our specific actions on Friday nights — for weeks, maybe months, before getting around to leveling up the conversation.

That is the GOLD right there — we leveled up the discussion — rather than talking about the tactics (what we were doing, or not doing, on Friday night), we talked about our vision.

We found a lot of alignment: we both wanted Friday night's to be fun. We both wanted the other to enjoy themselves. We both wanted to stop having this point of friction in our relationship. Win!

We also found some points of non-alignment: I wanted spontaneity and adventure and energy... Michael needed it to be planned and concrete.

This is where the genius of strategy comes in. A good strategy can sometimes find a way to solve for visions that are seemingly in conflict — which is exactly what we found, after some digging.

We agreed to plan a date night on Friday every single week that consisted of dinner & an activity. This satisfied Michael's need for planning and certainty and my need for getting out of the house.

And we agreed that we would alternate weeks of planning the date and that on weeks that Michael planned them, it would be a surprise for me — giving me the a sense of adventure and spontaneity while still allowing Michael to be planned and concrete. We solved for the misalignment! Big win!

And on a tactical level, we actually did it. We took action every Friday night.

To be clear — we didn't actually sit down and use our very grown up accountants voice and say: 'so tell me, kind sir, what is your vision?' But, we did use the principles of VST clearly and concretely.

Most importantly, we leveled up the conversation to talk about the vision (and where we were aligned... and not so aligned...) before trying to solve for the tactics that were driving each other nuts.

Which is why no matter the challenge I'm facing I tend to come back to VST — where is this broken? Should I level up this conversation? Do I need to rethink my vision?

And of course, what would Carl von Clausewitz do?

Until tomorrow,