What Is the Difference Between Strategy and Tactics: How Do They Work Together?

Both the terms originated as terms for the military but their use has spread to various fields now. Strategy is the action plan which guides you where you want to go and tactics are the individual steps/ actions that will lead you to your path.

For example, a personal strategy might be to get into a particular career whereas your tactics to achieve that might be choosing the right career path, getting advised by a good mentor, and success in mock tests. Strategy is essential for a person to know about his progress in his life, whereas without tactics we are destined to have chronic dissatisfaction. Strategy and tactics complement each other.

Difference between strategy and tactics
Difference between strategy and tactics

Conceptual understanding:

Someone can’t achieve his goal with just strategy. Tactics are the concrete action items for any strategy. In a business, when your team uses just strategy, then it means that they are just planning to achieve goals. Planning/ strategy without implementation/ tactics will yield zero results. Similarly, tactics alone cannot be implemented to achieve your goal. A team that adopts just tactics without any strategy, will find their work aimless and ultimately lead to frustrations and job dissatisfaction. 

A strong strategy is the essence of a good organization. Your strategic team should ensure there is alignment between the strategy and each department’s priorities. The strategies should be actionable. To create a good strategy, you should focus on your goals. A good tactic should be linked to a good strategy.

The term “tactics” is derived from the Greek word “taktikos” meaning “the art of ordering or arranging”. Tactics often focus on efficient use of the available resources and tend to be for a short duration and are more specific than strategy.  

The Thumb rule for understanding the difference between strategy and tactics is 

“Think strategically, act tactically”. 

Difference between strategy and tactics
Difference between strategy and tactics

Essentials for a good strategy: 

  • Creating time and space- Every board needs to allocate some time to have stringent discussions on its strategy. Some eminent entrepreneurs believe that it’s very essential to have an environment that can challenge the abilities of the executives and their subordinates while making any decisions for the business. Making a strategic decision productive, depends upon actively finding the blind spots.      
  • Collect information before making a decision- A good strategy is well planned and well researched. To construct a successful strategy, it’s important to collect information from past experiences to facilitate your future data-driven decisions.  
  • Building a 360-degree view- The senior board members shall look upon the achievements of their business and how their sector is evolving. A successful company is responsive and agile. The senior members should also see how their competitors are perceiving their business. A company should keep refreshing itself as per the requirements of its target audience. Thus, strategy is all about making decisions on when, where, and how to succeed in your niche leveraging a combination of facts and analysis. 
  • Having clear and achievable goals- A good strategy has a well-designed goal. A successful planning process involves clearly defined goals. Planning strategy and business goals together can streamline the planning process.
  • Think frontwards- If a company focuses on short-term goals, then they may encourage behaviors that lead to quick wins but ultimately harm the business. Focusing on short, medium, and long-term goals will enable you to have a clear direction for the future. This way you can easily make minor changes as and when required.      
  • Having a Plan B- Having a contingent plan in your strategy can help you plan for any sudden obstacle. Your planning team will be well prepared to come out from the speed bump preventing derailment of the project. 
  • Proper execution- Proper execution of strategy is essential for making a plan come out as a reality. It’s important to have a group of people able to implement and execute your strategies.  
  • Communicate your idea- A good strategy has a clear-cut idea behind it. It should be written down in a way that is clear about its accountability. 

Essentials for good tactics:

  • Tactics are short-term steps that help you hit smaller goals. Proper tactical planning is the act of conking out the strategic plan into short-term actions.   
  • Tactics are time-bound- Tactics are short-term executions. Creating time-bound deadlines will ensure that your tactics are getting completed within the stipulated time frame.
  • Unlike strategy, a tactic does not make any assumptions regarding the future but instead reacts to the current scenario. 

Strategy vs. Tactics – the difference:

Difference between strategy and tactics
Difference between strategy and tactics
StrategyTactics
IntentIs the intention of the company/organizationIs putting the intention into action.
Is time frameLong-term in nature with minimal charges  Short-term in nature and evolves with general conditions of a specific event 
Characteristic feature Help in the integration of internal matters of the organization with its external environment various aspects of the organization’s internal environment 
Who formulates?Generally formulated by top-level managers Generally formulated by middle and lower-level managers 
NatureAre intangible by natureAre tangible by nature
What does it need?Requires to focus on defining the future Requires execution daily
ObjectivePrepared to achieve the goals of the organization Prepared to execute and implement the strategies 
EvaluationDifficult to evaluate and measure Easy to evaluate and measure through well-defined metrics
What does it include?Strategic planning does not include execution plansTactical planning includes execution and implementation
PurposeTakes a general view of the organization Prepared for a specific purpose
FocusDetermines what needs to be done and why?Determines how to do it!
Subjective/ objective Is subjective based and broad Is objective-based and has a detailed analysis
Strategy vs. Tactics

Well said by Max Euwe: “Strategy requires thoughts and tactics require observation.”

Examples of strategy vs tactics:

Difference between strategy and tactics
Difference between strategy and tactics

Good governance for a local government is decided by its accountability and responsiveness.

  • Strategy: To achieve your goal, you may decide to enhance your communication skills by implementing new two-way communication mediums. This will help you understand the needs of the people and will improve your communication with them. 
  • Tactics: Creating, and publishing a fresh community dashboard to spread information about your goals; establishing a business plan which emphasizes two-way interaction between the government and the people. These tactics can lead to achieving your goal.

Many healthcare organizations are facing difficulty in providing proper hospital capacity, i.e. low supply of hospital beds, etc. This needs to be addressed immediately for your healthcare industry to boon.

  • Strategy: You can strategize to make internal processes more efficient to improve the flow of patients, thereby freeing up beds faster. 
  • Tactics: Implementing an optimized app to update in time and out the time of patients; Investing in data analytics to understand capacity problems. These tactics will improve your present scenario and unlock greater capacity within the resources available.

Increasing website traffic by 50% compared to the previous financial year

  • Strategy: Drive traffic from new visitors to your website.
  • Tactics: Ensure that the website URL is featured in all ads; add the website URL to all social media bios; lead industry-based social media chats online and encourage influencers to join in; create and share video blog posts on social media platforms; respond to people’s queries. 

Applying for a job after completion of your basic educational qualifications.

  • Strategy: Using your current skills; changing your career path; learning a new trade.
  • Tactics: Uploading your resume and applying for relevant jobs; researching apprenticeships online

HR managers have a common goal to hire exceptional talent including onboarding more qualified and relevant talent.

  • Strategy: Designing a repeatable interview process and giving access to frontline managers to use the procedure. 
  • Tactics: Creating an interview question template; involving a hiring committee to make unbiased selections; determining criteria for evaluating applicants.  

Measuring strategies vs tactics:

Measuring tactics will never indicate your company’s growth. Objectives and strategies are the major Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for an organization. Measuring the KPIs will help you determine the success of your strategies. Tactics can be measured in terms of their timeline/ cost/and how well they align with the strategies. For an organization strategy as well as tactics should go hand in hand, to reach the final goal. 

The final verdict:

Difference between strategy and tactics
Difference between strategy and tactics

Strategy is a huge term that includes many parts including tactics as one of the parts. 

Strategy and tactics should both be implemented smartly in an organization for its overall success. The key lies in choosing the opt strategy and the supportive tactics which would use the available resources efficiently.

Strategy is the ultimate plan to achieve your goals, it acts as a compass and guides your organization toward your objectives. On the other hand, tactics are actionable decisions taken about the strategies. Tactics create a roadmap for success that can be followed by anyone. 

Winding up:

Before implementing your strategy, make sure that you have addressed your hesitations and difficulties to the stakeholder. Once you are ready to implement and execute your strategies, communicate the same within your organization. Everyone in your company must understand the strategies to yield positive results. In turn, they can help in relating tactics with the strategies.  

Another important task is to review and evaluate your strategies regularly, to be able to cope with any changes and stay on track.  

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