This is the first in a series of detailed articles about mistakes made in strategic planning.
We will look at how strategy and tactics fit together and must be used together if a business is going to achieve its vision or strategic objective.
and you as the business owner are going to achieve your big objectives.
Strategy And Tactics
Let’s start with some definitions because these two word are often confused. In particular tactics are often mistaken for strategy.
What is Strategy?
I’ve defined strategy before in:
My personal definition is…
“Strategy is how you achieve your own objectives by winning the hearts, minds and business of customers by out-thinking and outmanoeuvring competitors.”
It is the big picture.
The “what you’re intending to do”.
According to Michael Porter, strategy boils down to being different. He says…
“Competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.”
That quote points us to the idea of different levels of strategy.
- Corporate strategy is the logic behind the structure of a group of companies and how they will add value for shareholders.
- Competitive strategy is the main battleground between customers and competitors.
- Functional strategies (the marketing strategy, the sales strategy, the operations strategy etc) is how the individual parts of the business will support the competitive strategy.
What Are Tactics?
Tactics are the individual actions and ploys you make to achieve your overall strategy.
Strategy sets the goals. Tactics are how you achieve your goals.
I mentioned functional strategies earlier and they can quickly move into tactics if you’re not careful because the objective of the business functions is to get stuff done.
The operational strategy might be “to shorten customer lead times until the business is able to offer the fastest delivery in the industry.”
That’s consistent with the idea that strategy is about establishing the differentiation of the business.
Shortening machine tool changeovers from 30 minutes to less than five minutes is a tactic. It is part of the answer of how the operations function will achieve its strategic objective.
Strategy And Tactics Must Work Together
There needs to be consistency between the strategy and tactics.
At the tactics level, strategy is the why.
Why are you doing that in that way? because it supports out strategy to…
The Danger Of All Strategy And No Tactics Or All Tactics And No Strategy
Chet Holmes, the author of:
made a big issue that the vast majority of senior managers (and presumably business owners) are tactical and suffer.
If the business is all about strategy and not about tactics, then nothing gets done. There’s plenty of hot air talk and grand plans but nothing gets achieved.
If the business is all about tactics and not about strategy, the business can degenerate into chaos. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. It’s one step forward and one step back.
Objectives, Goals, Strategies And Tactics
One framework suggests that there are objectives at the top (to make money, to increase sales revenue) that are supported by goals (attract and convert 50 more customers) that are achieved through strategies and tactics.
This can be helpful but it can also get circular.
This can be partly caused by an overarching grand strategy that sets the objectives, or to stray into more debatable definitions, the vision and the mission of the business.
You can think of it as:
Strategy (singular) = Objectives, Goals, Strategies And Tactics
In another popular version I’ve seen Mission placed at the front and Objectives and Goals combined to form the MOST acronym:
Strategy = Mission, Objectives, Strategies And Tactics
We really should use two separate words for Strategy and Strategies but custom and practice means that we don’t. Like much of strategy, different people use the same words with slightly different meanings.
What Other People Say
I thought the title of this article was irresistible. I liked the emphasis on thinking (strategy) and doing (tactics) and how they need to be combined.
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