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 the business must perform to realize 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.


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


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


  • 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. 


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.


  • 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.

Tactics in the Tech Business World

For years, I’ve been pondering the concept of what I like to call transitional business models.

A transitional business model is used by companies to enter a market (usually a niche) to gain initial traction and prove the idea is sound. The transitional business model helps the company secure the needed capital while having a reality check. It helps shape the long-term vision and a scalable business model.

According to this theory, there is no static business model a company sits on. 

Instead, a business model evolves with the organization’s short- and long-term goals. 

And a transitional business model works as a hook to keep the company grounded to existing market forces in the short term while it keeps evolving its business model as new market forces shape up!

That is one of the most powerful concepts of the Business Engineering Curriculum, which is worth internalizing to build successful digital/tech businesses!

A key go-to-market tactic that tech players have employed over the years to enable their long-term strategy is microniching.

A microniche is a subset of potential customers within a niche. In the era of dominating digital super-platforms, identifying a microniche can kick off the strategy of digital businesses to prevent competition against large platforms. As the microniche becomes a niche, then a market, scale becomes an option.

Take the case of a company that, when launching its operations, instead of going broad, goes narrow.

The minimum viable audience (MVA) represents the smallest possible audience that can sustain your business as you get it started from a microniche (the smallest subset of a market). The main aspect of the MVA is to zoom into existing markets to find those people which needs are unmet by existing players.

In business, this is known as niching down or microniching.

The premise of this tactic is that you want to narrow the existing market substantially (especially in the very early days) to create options to scale later down the road.

A classic example is how Tesla entered the EV industry by building a sports car intended to reach a few hundred people.


Tesla could have tried to build, right on, a mass-market EV car (like many existing players had done).

But due to a lack of resources, technology development, and market dynamics, Tesla went for the smallest possible option within an existing market.

The Roadstar was a critical stepping stone in developing the Tesla business model.

However, it answered a specific question: “can we build a viable EV sports car that is both performant and aesthetically appealing?”

Once Tesla could answer positively to that question by placing the first Tesla Roadsters on the market, it moved to the second stage.

It launched the Model S, which was supposed to answer another question:

“Can we scale EV manufacturing to a market segment that is interested in EVs beyond performance?”


Once it achieved the first level of scale, Tesla launched a new model, the Tesla Model 3, the main goal was to gain mass manufacturing!

It took 15 years of short-term pivots to achieve its long-term strategy.

Yet, at this stage, the question underlying the Tesla business model also radically changed.

The core question is, “can we mass-manufacture EVs to distribute them globally?”


In other words, the underlying question of the transitional business model has changed over the years, as follows:

  • Tesla Transitional Business Model 2003-2008: Can we build a viable, performant, aesthetically appealing EV?
  • Tesla Transitional Business Model 2008-2017: Can we build a model which is appealing to a larger audience while scaling up manufacturing?
  • Tesla Transitional Business Model 2017-2020: Can we scale up manufacturing?
  • Tesla Transitional Business Model 2020-forward: Can we manufacture at mass scale?

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.

What is the difference between strategy and tactics with example?

Whereas a strategy looks at the long-term. A tactic looks at the short-term. Sometimes, a tactic can be aligned with the long-term strategy (a linear tactic). In other cases, a tactic might seem misaligned with the long-term strategy (which we can define as a counter-intuitive tactic). Take the example of a tactic called microniching. To enter a market, a company can substantially narrow down the market – on purpose – so it can restrict the commercial use case, thus creating, over time, options to scale and achieve its long-term strategy.

What comes first strategy or tactics?

Usually, a strategy comes first, as it defines the organization’s long-term goal. Instead, tactics are short-term steps a company can take to get closer to its strategy. Indeed, tactics might be easily implemented quickly (days or months). A strategy to be fully executed and rolled out might take years, if not decades.

What is the difference between strategic and tactical thinking?

Whereas strategic thinking focuses on aligning the organization to its long-term goals. Tactical thinking helps the organization to be successful in the short term. To successfully roll out a business strategy, tactical thinking can be the short-term engine that gives the company the needed burst to survive and thrive in the short term to get closer to its longer-term vision.

Connected Strategy Frameworks


The ADKAR model is a management tool designed to assist employees and businesses in transitioning through organizational change. To maximize the chances of employees embracing change, the ADKAR model was developed by author and engineer Jeff Hiatt in 2003. The model seeks to guide people through the change process and importantly, ensure that people do not revert to habitual ways of operating after some time has passed.

Ansoff Matrix

You can use the Ansoff Matrix as a strategic framework to understand what growth strategy is more suited based on the market context. Developed by mathematician and business manager Igor Ansoff, it assumes a growth strategy can be derived from whether the market is new or existing, and whether the product is new or existing.

Business Model Canvas

The business model canvas is a framework proposed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur in Busines Model Generation enabling the design of business models through nine building blocks comprising: key partners, key activities, value propositions, customer relationships, customer segments, critical resources, channels, cost structure, and revenue streams.

Lean Startup Canvas

The lean startup canvas is an adaptation by Ash Maurya of the business model canvas by Alexander Osterwalder, which adds a layer that focuses on problems, solutions, key metrics, unfair advantage based, and a unique value proposition. Thus, starting from mastering the problem rather than the solution.

Blitzscaling Canvas

The Blitzscaling business model canvas is a model based on the concept of Blitzscaling, which is a particular process of massive growth under uncertainty, and that prioritizes speed over efficiency and focuses on market domination to create a first-scaler advantage in a scenario of uncertainty.

Blue Ocean Strategy

A blue ocean is a strategy where the boundaries of existing markets are redefined, and new uncontested markets are created. At its core, there is value innovation, for which uncontested markets are created, where competition is made irrelevant. And the cost-value trade-off is broken. Thus, companies following a blue ocean strategy offer much more value at a lower cost for the end customers.

Business Analysis Framework

Business analysis is a research discipline that helps driving change within an organization by identifying the key elements and processes that drive value. Business analysis can also be used in Identifying new business opportunities or how to take advantage of existing business opportunities to grow your business in the marketplace.

BCG Matrix

In the 1970s, Bruce D. Henderson, founder of the Boston Consulting Group, came up with The Product Portfolio (aka BCG Matrix, or Growth-share Matrix), which would look at a successful business product portfolio based on potential growth and market shares. It divided products into four main categories: cash cows, pets (dogs), question marks, and stars.

Balanced Scorecard

First proposed by accounting academic Robert Kaplan, the balanced scorecard is a management system that allows an organization to focus on big-picture strategic goals. The four perspectives of the balanced scorecard include financial, customer, business process, and organizational capacity. From there, according to the balanced scorecard, it’s possible to have a holistic view of the business.

Blue Ocean Strategy 

A blue ocean is a strategy where the boundaries of existing markets are redefined, and new uncontested markets are created. At its core, there is value innovation, for which uncontested markets are created, where competition is made irrelevant. And the cost-value trade-off is broken. Thus, companies following a blue ocean strategy offer much more value at a lower cost for the end customers.

GAP Analysis

A gap analysis helps an organization assess its alignment with strategic objectives to determine whether the current execution is in line with the company’s mission and long-term vision. Gap analyses then help reach a target performance by assisting organizations to use their resources better. A good gap analysis is a powerful tool to improve execution.

GE McKinsey Model

The GE McKinsey Matrix was developed in the 1970s after General Electric asked its consultant McKinsey to develop a portfolio management model. This matrix is a strategy tool that provides guidance on how a corporation should prioritize its investments among its business units, leading to three possible scenarios: invest, protect, harvest, and divest.

McKinsey 7-S Model

The McKinsey 7-S Model was developed in the late 1970s by Robert Waterman and Thomas Peters, who were consultants at McKinsey & Company. Waterman and Peters created seven key internal elements that inform a business of how well positioned it is to achieve its goals, based on three hard elements and four soft elements.

McKinsey’s Seven Degrees

McKinsey’s Seven Degrees of Freedom for Growth is a strategy tool. Developed by partners at McKinsey and Company, the tool helps businesses understand which opportunities will contribute to expansion, and therefore it helps to prioritize those initiatives.

McKinsey Horizon Model

The McKinsey Horizon Model helps a business focus on innovation and growth. The model is a strategy framework divided into three broad categories, otherwise known as horizons. Thus, the framework is sometimes referred to as McKinsey’s Three Horizons of Growth.

Porter’s Five Forces

Porter’s Five Forces is a model that helps organizations to gain a better understanding of their industries and competition. Published for the first time by Professor Michael Porter in his book “Competitive Strategy” in the 1980s. The model breaks down industries and markets by analyzing them through five forces.

Porter’s Generic Strategies

According to Michael Porter, a competitive advantage, in a given industry could be pursued in two key ways: low cost (cost leadership), or differentiation. A third generic strategy is focus. According to Porter a failure to do so would end up stuck in the middle scenario, where the company will not retain a long-term competitive advantage.

Porter’s Value Chain Model

In his 1985 book Competitive Advantage, Porter explains that a value chain is a collection of processes that a company performs to create value for its consumers. As a result, he asserts that value chain analysis is directly linked to competitive advantage. Porter’s Value Chain Model is a strategic management tool developed by Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter. The tool analyses a company’s value chain – defined as the combination of processes that the company uses to make money.

Porter’s Diamond Model

Porter’s Diamond Model is a diamond-shaped framework that explains why specific industries in a nation become internationally competitive while those in other nations do not. The model was first published in Michael Porter’s 1990 book The Competitive Advantage of Nations. This framework looks at the firm strategy, structure/rivalry, factor conditions, demand conditions, related and supporting industries.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business‘s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

PESTEL Analysis


Scenario Planning

Businesses use scenario planning to make assumptions on future events and how their respective business environments may change in response to those future events. Therefore, scenario planning identifies specific uncertainties – or different realities and how they might affect future business operations. Scenario planning attempts at better strategic decision making by avoiding two pitfalls: underprediction, and overprediction.

STEEPLE Analysis

The STEEPLE analysis is a variation of the STEEP analysis. Where the step analysis comprises socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political factors as the base of the analysis. The STEEPLE analysis adds other two factors such as Legal and Ethical.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

Related Strategy Concepts: Go-To-Market StrategyMarketing StrategyBusiness ModelsTech Business ModelsJobs-To-Be DoneDesign ThinkingLean Startup CanvasValue ChainValue Proposition CanvasBalanced ScorecardBusiness Model CanvasSWOT AnalysisGrowth HackingBundlingUnbundlingBootstrappingVenture CapitalPorter’s Five ForcesPorter’s Generic StrategiesPorter’s Five ForcesPESTEL AnalysisSWOTPorter’s Diamond ModelAnsoffTechnology Adoption CurveTOWSSOARBalanced ScorecardOKRAgile MethodologyValue PropositionVTDF

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