“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
- Sun Tzu
The word strategy and it’s meaning has long been associated with warfare and battles of some kind, while in fact a strategy is the utilization of a nation’s resources, through large-scale and long-term planning, to ensure security or victory in war and peace. Tactics however are about deploying and managing troops, ships and aircrafts in effective maneuvers to achieve the objectives which the strategy has defined and are therefore much more rooted in the execution of battle.
If we look at how strategy and tactics are used within businesses, one can notice the same pattern and usage, but not only do the strategy and tactics create a synergy, the one needs the other in order to have any effect at all. Because every company has limited resources, strategy is used to create a guide for a series of actions that different departments or teams should take.
A strategy without assigned tactics is basically a big plan but no action. If you use tactics without a strategy, things usually tend to be chaotic and sometimes even damaging. Either way, you won’t be able to measure the success of your venture, without knowing both what you are measuring and what the expected value or result is, which means that choosing how to allocate your resources in the future for maximum efficiency is going to be a shot in the dark.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN STRATEGY AND TACTICS
There are of course many different ways that strategy and tactics differ from each other, however to make a contribution to clearing things up in my own industry I’m going to focus on three main areas; Purpose, Duration and Output.
The purpose of strategy is to identifying clear objectives to promote the overall organization and organizing resources. While the purpose of tactics are the use of specific resources to achieve milestones that support the defined mission.
The durations varies between strategies and tactics. Strategy is considered a long term effort which rarely changes, while tactics adapt to market conditions and therefore are more interchangeable. What can cause a business to alter their strategies? I would say that if objectives associated to the overall mission are being added or changed the strategy should also be looked over as well, or if KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) aren’t performing as planned.
Expectations should also differ regarding output. Generally a strategy delivers organizational goals, plans and KPIs for measuring success. Where as tactical activities will generate deliverables and results.
WHATS & HOWS
I hope you’ve found this post interesting and/or useful so far, however strategies and tactics aren’t the end-all. They are part of a bigger picture, it’s pretty simple, the links or “phases” consist the following; Mission, Objectives, Strategy, Execution and Tactics. These links fall into 1 of 2 categories, “what’s” and “how’s”.
A mission is a “what”, and defines a very large and long-term outcome of an activity. Objectives, strategies, execution and tactics can all be used to get there, but it’s mission that is ultimately to be fulfilled. The mission is often the vision that a CEO develops or is recruited to achieve for their company.
Objectives are the goals towards which the efforts and actions are directed. Goals are also definitions about “what” is to be done but are smaller in scale than the mission. There may be several goals and milestones to be achieved in order to achieve a mission, but there is usually only one mission and the mission is thus the ultimate goal.
Strategy is “how” to achieve a milestone, a goal or even a mission . It is a well thought out and organized plan, method, or list of actions that should be used to achieve the result.
The execution is “what” is being done to meet or coordinate a strategy. In communications / marketing, this may mean ads, TV-commercials and web sites, social media channel etc. These means of communication are developed from a creative or strategic brief.
Tactics are also measures taken to achieve a greater purpose but on a smaller scale than during the execution phase. Tactical elements can be examples of how to vary the content of your ad , TV spot or marketing messages that you implement on your website or social media.
The mission dictates the long term business purpose and vision. The vision is broken down into one or more objectives and milestones and to concretize what needs to be achieved for that mission to be fulfilled. A strategy is developed by planning and prioritizing the approaches to how each goal is achieved and these strategies is the basis for the conceptualization of different types of implementations that enable fulfillment of the associated target. Channels and platforms are maintained, optimized, taken forward using tactical activities.
KEEPING THE PEACE
When you are working based on your own vision and your own goals, like this model enables you to do, the strategic and tactical decisions become almost automatically tailored to your specific needs. In the best of worlds, you will be able to further develop your business effectively and peacefully, but if worst come to worst you can also go into combat with an effective attack and defense.
However if you start in the other end, with only ill-conceived tactics, you will quickly realize that it is hard to define an appropriate implementation, a strategy or a vision in retrospect and your resources that could have been used to drive the business forward will henceforth need to be allocated to constantly defending yourself against competitors and their strategic tactics. So, the next time you’re thinking about gathering your troops, make sure you’re starting from the right place.
The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson