Strategic vs. Reactive.

Strategic vs. Reactive.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was a brilliant general. In the Second World War, he devised the “Eisenhower Box.” This is a matrix that ranks priorities according to importance and urgency.

Eisenhower didn’t want unimportant things coming to him in an urgent manner. He also didn’t want important decisions to be made urgently if time wasn’t a factor. Many business schools actually teach the Eisenhower Box, even though it was originally intended to help make strategic decisions in times of war.

Think about how much information comes to your desk or device. How often do you react quickly to non-urgent items? How often do you treat urgent items with a level of importance they don’t deserve?

Eisenhower forced his chain of command to be strategic instead of reactive. He wanted his team to go a mile deep on what mattered instead of an inch deep on a million things that were inconsequential. He wanted everyone around him to understand the difference between what was urgent but not important. He wanted them to realize that the truly important things are often not time-sensitive at all.

I spent my holiday weekend in California with two sets of great clients who are making excellent progress in their practices. Throughout our time together, my job was to not only provide resources, tools and tactical advice, but to consistently tie everything together in pursuit of a 3-5 year strategic plan. In other words, to focus on what was really important and to agree that the long-game is not as time sensitive as we think; to keep the non-important urgent distractions at bay.

You’ve heard me say here and elsewhere that we tend to overestimate what we can get done in a month but underestimate what we can get done in a few years. The reason this rings true with so many small business owners is that we are reactive versus strategic; we fret urgently over that which does not matter and pay too little attention, remaining too shallow, on the things that are really important.

In preparation for 2020 (it’s a new decade, after all), this is an excellent time to sit down with your “chain of command” and define the 3-5 big items you’ll be working on each year for the next 3-5 years, so that the year 2025 holds everything you deserve.

Eisenhower didn’t win the war overnight. You won’t 3X or 5X your business overnight either. If you go a mile deep on what really matters, however, you might wake up one day with a 10X practice. I’ve done it and helped many clients do the same. Everything you need to succeed is already within you. This is simply a matter of being strategic versus reactive.

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.