Strategy comes down to making choices

I've just wrapped an intense week of strategic planning at my company which has left me in a reflective state of mind. While I was wrestling with choices that will have a profound influence on the future direction we will take, it appears that two guys named David have been making similar decisions about their respective futures. One got a lot of play in the blogs, the other not so much.

I've just wrapped an intense week of strategic planning at my company which has left me in a reflective state of mind. While I was wrestling with choices that will have a profound influence on the future direction we will take, it appears that two guys named David have been making similar decisions about their respective futures. One got a lot of play in the blogs, the other not so much.

The first David is Dave Winer - RSS and OPML savant, proto-blogger, and curmudgeon. I met Dave for about five minutes at a MacWorld way back in the days of More, the excellent outliner he created for the Macintosh back when, well when we still called it a Macintosh. I'm sure the encounter was far more memorable for me than for him. The reason I remember it so clearly is that Winer was lecturing some poor schnook who had made the bad strategic choice to take Dave on regarding a topic he clearly didn't have his facts right about. And  Dave just took the guy apart, piece by piece.

Fast forward about 12 years or so. I meet Dave again, this time at the first MSN Search Champs events. By this time Dave is a much more well-known personality. I spend two days sitting in the same room with him listening to him weigh in on how Microsoft is approaching search and I see a legendary performance that includes stomping, swearing, finger pointing, and passionate advocacy. Everything short of slamming the table with his shoe. Classic Winer.

This week, Dave announced he's decided he will stop blogging -- probably by the end of the year, maybe sooner. A hue and cry arises from a number of prominent bloggers begging him to reconsider. This raises a second round of commentary from other bloggers opining about why he should or shouldn't do what he's announced he intends to do. From my perspective, Dave explained his reasoning quite clearly. He's accomplished what he set out to do. He feels it's time to move on. He has personal issues he needs and wants to take care of.

He's redefined his strategy.

The second David is David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, a book and an approach to reducing stress and increasing personal productivity and satisfaction that has had a profound influence on me personally and on how my company works. I've written much about GTD over the years since I first read the book and attended one of David's seminars. GTD has, in the past few years, become a very popular model among tech bloggers and you'll have no trouble finding great writings about how to adapt software and human process with a quick Technorati or IceRocket search.

I have had the great fortune to get to know David over the intervening years and have enjoyed a number of philosophical conversations with him about making choices, choosing strategies, and understanding the limitations each of us has to do only so much as well as we would like. In fact, I'll be heading to Southern California next week to attend David's new Roadmap seminar to give myself a GTD "tune-up". The timing could not be better. Having just spent weeks reassessing the direction we will take in moving our company to the next level, I'm loaded up with new projects, activities, and commitments. It's similar to giving our car a thorough tune-up before setting out on a road trip.

This week, David announced that he too is hanging up on blogging - at least for now. Allen was never as prolific as Winer (only a handful of bloggers even come close to Winer's stream of consciousness flow) and was quite clear when he began his blog that he was dabbling with the medium in response to frequent requests that he try it. His reasons for stopping are entirely different from Winer's with one exception -- they too represent a set of strategic decisions he has made about where he needs and wants to focus his energies. Allen's company is about to launch a broad range of new services and products and he has made the strategic decision that he needs to focus his considerable energies on those efforts.

The concept of renegotiating agreements you have made with others, and more importantly with yourself, is a big takeaway for me in GTD.  Both Davids are renegotiating their blogging agreements, with themselves and with their audiences. They're reevaluating their strategy based on the evolving state of their lives and their businesses. This is healthy. Clarifying your strategy and your goals often requires that you set aside things you have spent a significant amount of time, energy, and other resources on. It may be something you've done because you had to or it may be something that you've done because you wanted to.

I wish both Davids well. I have no doubt we'll be hearing more from both of them. The medium they use to communicate their thoughts may change but I believe it is the essential nature of both of these men to share their ideas with others. I for one have profited from their generosity and look forward to more.

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