Do What’s Hard — Strategising & Doing.

Don’t spend more time strategising than doing.

When pursuing a project with minimal resources (a.k.a A Startup) a sense of disorder quickly sets in. A team of three or four fills the roles normally manned by twenty or thirty. Marketing, building, selling, refining, designing etc. The team switches cognitive hats all day. Everyone becomes a mental kaleidoscope.

There isn’t just a sense of disorder in a startup, things probably ARE disordered, because, unlike an established company, there is no precedent formula of success to work from — rather, startups are in the process of uncovering a formula (if one in-fact even exists for the product and market).

Human beings don’t like disorder. It makes us uncomfortable. In this disordered environment, strategising make us feel good, it imparts a sense of clarity. It frames what each individual is doing, and why they are doing it.

When we strategise, we work in the ideal realm and are free to make assumptions; free to do so, whether or not those assumptions are congruent with reality.

Compare and contrast this with the act of “doing”. Doing is generally hard. Especially when we’re doing something new, foreign to our existing experience and in uncharted territory in terms of precedent —i.e. the daily experience of being in an early stage startup.

Compared with strategising, the act of “doing” feels clunky. We waste time on dead ends, we struggle to absorb a complex new concept or to generate a satisfactory theory to explain our empirical observations of customers or code.

In “doing” we have to deal with the sticky coalface of actuality. Here things are messy and surprisingly granular. This is a very different kind of place from the realm of strategy.

Given the comparatively pleasant nature of strategising over doing, its only natural that we gravitate towards it.

But if you’re in an early stage startup — this is a mistake.

Unless you have the resources for both doers and strategists (unlikely if you are early stage), you should place the emphasis on the doing.

Strategy is a periscope. A means by which you can look up from your day-to-day trenches and try to get a better lay of the land. But if you spend all day glued to the periscope, you’re not going to actually get anywhere.

This is not to say you shouldn’t strategise. You absolutely should. You are travelling blind, if you “do” without a strategy. Just remember that the tangible progress is made in the execution of the strategy (aka the doing), and not in strategising itself.

Start-ups are hard; doing is hard. Do what’s hard.