Back in World War II, the Allied Powers were charged with overthrowing Axis domination. Doing so was a massive undertaking, involving millions of soldiers and personnel, not to mention highly detailed plans made over the years. The strategies were sound—take back North Africa, push into Italy, invade northern France, etc. To carry out those strategies, the armies used individual team tactics executed with expert precision. Without the tactics, their strategies would be impossible to complete. Without the strategies, their tactics had no direction or sense of what role they played. Balancing out the tactical vs. strategic efforts was vital to victory.
The same can be said for the business world, though the consequences are far less pressing and critical. Businesses develop strategies to plan out future goals. They also create tactics to carry out those strategies. Doing just one or the other isn’t enough. Both have to work together to get the results you want, which makes knowing the difference between strategy and tactics valuable.
Too often, businesses will focus on one over the other, resulting in growing frustration as goals aren’t met and efforts are wasted. When leaders understand how they work together, they can utilize both to the fullest extent to achieve their business goals.
To help you make the most of strategy and tactics to accomplish your goals, this article will go over the following:
Table of Contents
- What’s the Difference Between Strategy and Tactics?
- How Strategies and Tactics Work Together
- What Makes a Good Strategy?
- What Makes a Good Tactic?
- Examples of Being Tactical vs. Strategic
- Tracking the Success of Your Strategies and Tactics
What’s the Difference Between Strategy and Tactics?
Strategy and tactics are both used in the context of many different areas. From military uses to business to sports, both play vital roles in fulfilling goals and claiming victory. It’s important to understand how they differ from each other in order to effectively use them.
What Is Strategy?
A strategy is mostly focused on the long term. It consists of the decisions and plans you make in order to reach a certain goal. Think of it as setting the path you intend to follow. Strategic planning will consist of mapping out that path and defining what the end goal is. It’s a high-level approach compared to tactical planning. Another word for strategy might be “plan” or “approach,” but it keeps the long term in mind at all times.
What Are Tactics?
Tactics deal mostly with meeting short-term goals that help you fulfill a specific strategy. Think of tactics like the steps you take along the path. Each one should be well-coordinated and keep in line with the strategic goals you have set out. These are the definitive and specific actions you take and are less abstract than a strategy might be. Tactics in the business world often involve allocating resources, hiring the right employees, creating effective teams, following best practices, and more.
How Strategies and Tactics Work Together
The close relationship between strategy and tactics was first laid out by Sun Tzu in his seminal work The Art of War. As Sun Tzu once noted, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” The two must work together, or nothing useful will get done. While some businesses may argue for focusing on one or the other, reaching your goals means taking both into account.
A strategy without tactics basically amounts to wishful thinking. It’s a vision without any real hope of achieving it. You can spend all your time mapping out a strategic plan for reaching higher levels of success, but what you’re really doing is wasting your time. Those goals you set will be forever out of reach.
When you use tactics without a strategy, however, you also can’t achieve your goals because you’ll have no idea where to go. Devoting your time solely to tactics means engaging in meaningless work. It quickly becomes tedious since you have little idea how what you’re doing fits into the bigger picture. It’s the equivalent of driving around a city with no map or a destination in mind.
What Makes a Good Strategy?
A good strategy represents an overall vision for an organization. It details where the company is and where they want to go in the future. Mapping out a strategy is also informed by a business’s core values. Holding true to those values and the vision results in a strategy that transforms the business into something better. Good strategies will also have contingency plans in case things fall through.
What Makes a Good Tactic?
An effective tactic is a step that has a definitive deadline attached to it. Good tactics bask in simplicity and specifics, stating exactly what actions people will take and when they will take them. There is a concrete purpose involved with each tactic, and it shows who has responsibility for each step. Good tactics also fall in line with the overall strategy, meaning they are also true to the company’s vision and core values.
Examples of Being Tactical vs. Strategic
The Strategy: Increase followers and reach on the company’s social media accounts.
The Tactics: The company can hire social media experts who have a proven record of reaching these goals. The strategic leadership team can then create monthly goals to hit while carrying out the strategy. Team leaders can then make sure to use their social media accounts to promote other underperforming accounts. They may decide to run contests that encourage people to follow these accounts. Social media teams will even have a daily and weekly posting schedule to ensure maximum coverage.
The Strategy: Become dominant in the West Coast marketplace.
The Tactics: As a retail furniture store already established in the Midwest, the company is looking to expand. The tactics employed include increasing the stock of available products, hiring more employees and salespeople in particular, and calculating increased logistics. The company might also find new store locations and identify where growth opportunities are strongest. The business’s leaders may also spend funds to research what their competition will be like in the new location.
The Strategy: Increase the effectiveness of your marketing to grow your customer base.
The Tactics: Your business tactics will likely involve hiring marketing experts and getting them to use project management software that allows for more organization and communication. Another tactic would be using the StoryBrand marketing approach to better connect with your audience. Other tactics include taking advantage of social media platforms, producing articles on the company’s blog, and giving potential customers more chances to sign up for free trials when applicable.
Tracking the Success of Your Strategies and Tactics
Knowing the difference between strategies and tactics is a good start, but you also have to make sure they’re effective. Measuring the progress of your strategy then becomes crucial.
Determine what systems you can track to gauge progress. Identify the KPIs and OKRs that give you the hard data you need to measure how you’re doing. You should set important milestones and compare them with your tactics to make sure they’re all working together.
Equally helpful in tracking strategic success is the use of project management tools. These tools ensure everyone in the company stays organized and knows what others are working on. They help workers plan out their day, week, and month to best utilize their time and carry out their tactics.
You can learn more about project management and the most helpful tools by reading the articles below.
Which Project Management App is Best for Your Team?
Work Efficiency: 11 Ways You Can Become More Productive
Source: Cosmo Politian