My personal business is, well, personal. Every month I need to do some repetitive accounting work—essentially sort out the invoices of the previous month before sending them to my accountants. It’s 30-60 minutes of work monthly, but it’s taking a toll on my energy too—because I don’t like doing it. I decided to outsource it. My accountants agreed to do it instead.
I had a written procedure for this, and all I needed to do was adapt it a little bit. Training my accountants is going to be a piece of cake, because the process is already written down and tested.
Apparently I’m a SOP nerd, because I enjoy writing SOPs. As much as I hate spending an hour to sort out invoices, I can happily spend three hours writing SOPs on how to sort out invoices. I find this funny. I know that most people would hate writing SOPs much more than actually doing the work. I guess that, at least in some ways, I’m “strategic” rather than “transactional”. However I dislike the dichotomy and the implications of “strategic vs. transactional”. I dislike the labels themselves.
If I was working for the fire department, I think I’d excel at writing standards and procedures and organizing drills, and taking notes during the drills in order to identify points of failure or possible improvement. I’d probably do the same during real emergencies. But I’d really suck being in the front line during a real emergency—especially if my SOPs failed and I had to improvise. Maybe I wouldn’t panic—I don’t know—and maybe I’d perform decently—I also don’t know. What I’m certain is that many people, likely most firemen, would definitely outperform me.
And here is my skepticism towards labels such as “strategic” and “transactional”. First of all, I’m not certain what they mean. Is writing emergency procedures for the fire department “strategic”? Does it have to do with the department’s strategy? Maybe the answer to this is negative.
But there are companies that work by (figuratively) putting out fires day-to-day, and there are companies that have the habit of (figuratively) building and improving their firewalls day-to-day. Is this what we mean by “transactional” and “strategic”?
I think that everyone uses these words differently. One person may say “we’re strategic”, but what they actually do might be termed transactional by another person. If we aren’t certain we are on the same wavelength, “be strategic” becomes a meaningless slogan.
My second disagreement with these terms is that it treats “transactional” as something inferior. But “strategic” companies do lots of transactions daily. It’s just that they’ve streamlined their transactions and are continuously working to improve their processes—in my understanding of the dichotomy, at least. So the “strategic” companies are quite transactional, aren’t they?