strategy-vs-tactics

Strategy vs. Tactics

Organizations create strategies to define overarching goals and how they intend to reach them. Tactics describe the individual steps and actions that allow the strategy to be carried out.

Understanding the relationship between strategy and tactics

Strategy and tactics are military terms that have now made their way into business and professional contexts.

With that said, consider a quote from the Chinese military treatise The Art of War by Sun Tzu: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

From the above, we can surmise that strategy and tactics work to reinforce each other when used in unison.

Companies develop strategies to define their long-term goals and how they intend to fulfill their vision or mission.

Tactics are the often smaller, more sequential steps that the business must perform on the way to realizing its strategy.

Some planners call them initiatives, but whatever the name, tactics usually incorporate best practices, resources, or concrete plans.

To further differentiate between strategy and tactics and how they may interact, consider the following statements:

  1. Strategy is a long-term vision based on extensive research, while tactics concern more immediate, short-term actions. If a marketing strategy aims to improve social media engagement, one tactic may involve responding to every user comment. Strategies can be altered to reflect external conditions, despite assurances to the contrary. But a better way to increase the success of a strategy is to alter the tactics instead.
  2. Strategy and tactics must be aligned to ensure the company is acting in accordance with its core values. There must be organization-wide awareness of what the company is doing, why it is doing it, and how (the tactics).
  3. Strategy and tactics will never cover everything. Finite resources must be directed to the initiatives that will allow the company to achieve its goals in the most efficient manner.

Examples of strategy and tactics

Let’s conclude by taking a look at two examples of strategy and tactics in hypothetical real-world scenarios.

Education

In the first example, we have a school that is looking to improve its standardized test scores across every year level.

Strategy

To implement the smart education system in classrooms and connect and engage with the next generation of students via technology.

Tactics

  • Purchase interactive displays, interactive whiteboards, and teacher training software.
  • Onboard teachers to the technology and provide professional development for teachers to improve their delivery skills.

Local government

Local government, like all tiers of government, should be built on the cornerstones of responsiveness and accountability.

Here is the strategy and tactics for a government that wants to increase its transparency among ratepayers. 

Strategy

To meet transparency-based goals, government representatives convene and decide that a broader strategy emphasizing two-way communication is ideal.

This will enable the government to better understand ratepayer concerns, keep them informed of any developments, and provide clarity on where rates are spent.

Tactics

  • Create a local government dashboard where constituent members can stay abreast of the government’s latest projects and keep it accountable.
  • Create a marketing plan that outlines how ratepayers can communicate or interact with the government. The Hinchinbrook Shire Council, for example, developed a marketing plan that promoted council-owned services to create awareness in the community. These services, where locals can interact with council representatives, include art galleries, hireable venues, museums, and libraries.

Key takeaways:

  • Organizations create strategies to define overarching goals and how they intend to reach them, while tactics describe the individual steps and actions that determine how the strategy will be accomplished.
  • Strategy is a long-term vision based on extensive research, while tactics concern more immediate, short-term actions. While strategies can be altered to reflect external conditions, it tends to be easier and more cost-effective to alter the tactics within a strategy instead.
  • A school that wants to improve student test scores may develop a strategy that calls for smart technology implementation in classrooms. Tactics that support this strategy include teacher training, professional development, and the purchasing of interactive displays and whiteboards.

Connected Business Frameworks

first-principles-thinking
First-principles thinking – sometimes called reasoning from first principles – is used to reverse-engineer complex problems and encourage creativity. It involves breaking down problems into basic elements and reassembling them from the ground up. Elon Musk is among the strongest proponents of this way of thinking.
ladder-of-inference
The ladder of inference is a conscious or subconscious thinking process where an individual moves from a fact to a decision or action. The ladder of inference was created by academic Chris Argyris to illustrate how people form and then use mental models to make decisions.
six-thinking-hats-model
The Six Thinking Hats model was created by psychologist Edward de Bono in 1986, who noted that personality type was a key driver of how people approached problem-solving. For example, optimists view situations differently from pessimists. Analytical individuals may generate ideas that a more emotional person would not, and vice versa.
second-order-thinking
Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.
moonshot-thinking
Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.
design-thinking
Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO, defined design thinking as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Therefore, desirability, feasibility, and viability are balanced to solve critical problems.
pareto-principle-pareto-analysis
The Pareto Analysis is a statistical analysis used in business decision making that identifies a certain number of input factors that have the greatest impact on income. It is based on the similarly named Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of the effect of something can be attributed to just 20% of the drivers.

Other related business frameworks:

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