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Why designers and engineers should drive strategic decisions

Builders—designers and engineers broadly—bring to life the ideas of the working collective. They focus on solving concrete problems with tangible solutions and push for experiences that feel intuitive and considered because they live in the specifics of the experience and functionality being created.

Often as they grow, organizations become complicated with layers between the people who build and those who connect and communicate. This layering most commonly stratifies connectors and communicators as focused on strategy and builders as focused on execution. In all but the rarest exceptions, this division of WHY from WHAT from HOW is frustrating and counterproductive.

Non-builders - largely the people who play the role of connectors and communicators are mired in processes and methodologies grounded in theory and often impractical or outdated when applied in reality.  These same process and methodology-people are also often late and slow to adopt new tools and technology that doesn’t fit with their existing mental models - even as their mental models fail to keep up with changing needs, shifting market dynamics, and evolving technology trends. Builders on the other hand keep their pulse on what’s changing and are always looking for new needs, dynamics, tools, and trends.

The chasm between theoretical, backward-entrenched strategic thinking and realistic, forward-looking execution is real and threatens many businesses. Without getting into specifics grounded in what’s happening with real people now and soon, a theoretical strategy often circles around an unfocused audience, problem, and potential solutions lacking in vision and intent. The unfocused strategy then leads to companies needing more people, more time, and more money to try to figure out what exactly is being built, for whom, and WHY - further exacerbating strategy confusion and hampering effective execution efforts.

A push for builders to be further upstream in strategy-setting decisions means less risk of defining the wrong problems, misunderstanding the people who have them, and miscommunicating the vision and intent of the solution. Without a shared understanding and clarity of purpose, teams question the plan and push and pull in different directions - this is catastrophic for execution, especially if product success depends on speed to market.

As the creator economy grows and evolves, this paradigm of strategy versus execution is shifting to meet builders who are realizing they are able to create and connect the dots between strategy and execution iteratively themselves. The emphasis on pure strategy or pure execution was always a false dichotomy and the connection of strategy to implementation has always been the most important thing.

We believe builders should continue and accelerate efforts to push into more strategic responsibilities informed by the needs of real people, market dynamics, execution realities, and emerging technology trends - tightening the feedback and learning loop between what works and what doesn’t work for whom and WHY.

Designing and building a product with a clear strategy and aligned execution plan establishes a foundation of shared understanding for a team to build on and iterate against. A good plan that includes both the strategic WHY and the practical WHAT and HOW gets everyone to push in the same direction as a cohesive unit.

Builders are hard-wired to create valuable and long-lasting things. We want to be part of successful teams and companies. The reality many of us have lived is that  - even when we bring our best efforts to build to bear  - success is never realized with half-baked strategy and execution plans around nebulous users and needs and with a lack of clear solution vision or intent. Informed by what is happening now, next, and what works and doesn’t work in practice, builders are well-positioned to drive strategic decisions and aligned execution plans grounded in emerging needs and market dynamics, feasibility, and technology trends more commonly and frequently.

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