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Tactical Vs. Strategic Thinking

Posted by Ben Waxman Posted on Jul 16, 2019 3:00:00 PM
Ben Waxman

In our prior blog, we hit the road towards our strategic destination fueled by the proper tactics to keep us on the right track. While strategy and tactics are required to make the trip, they are also very different tools.

Tactical thinking vs. strategic thinking is similar to “which comes first, the chicken or the egg”. One cannot exist without

the other. A strategy needs to be in place before you can determine the ideal tactics to achieve your goal. By the same token, your goal may not be achieved unless you employ the proper tactics. They are different and essential tools to employ in every short and long term business plan.
While doing things rightis tactical,doing the right thingsis strategic. Howis tactical, and whyis strategic. The first examples fall to the management/employee team and the second are determined by the leadership team.  

Strategy and tactics are often used incorrectly in planning meetings. It can be very hard to keep the team clear about the why and how. In our years of working with many clients in many industries, confusion around strategy and tactics is common and pervasive.

You can have a content strategy while using engaging content as a tactic for your company’s overall strategy. The same is true of social media. It is a tool or a tactic, and you’ll be asked ‘what is your social media strategy?” So which is it? Tactic, strategy or both?

Here is a simple way to think about it:
Paraphrasing Harvard luminary Michael Porter, strategy has everything to do with differentiation. Why you do something in business to gain market share has to do with differentiating your product or service. Give your customers a reason to choose you over the competition. That is strategic positioning. How you achieve that differentiation has to do with tactical planning.

You may use engaging content on social media as a tactic. Your strategic position defines your messaging which flows to your customers (audience) via social media. (Stay with us now.) You can develop a social media strategy to support your company’s strategic position. Your social media strategy focuses on differentiation – making you stand out in a crowded field. The social media strategy considers which platforms will achieve your goal of differentiation. This is where your plans become tactical.

The process of tactical planning uses the mission statement (strategic goal) developed through the process of strategic planning to identify the courses of action necessary to achieve the objectives. When viewed through ‘strategic colored glasses’, every change, challenge or chance that presents itself can be addressed based on whether or not it serves the mission.

This constant ‘eye on the prize’ can help to simplify and expedite decision making and raise it from the ‘it’s our policy’ level to ‘how does this decision get us closer to our goal’. It provides a consistent and constant reminder of why we do what we do, and what tactics will get us there most effectively.

Need more help sorting this stuff out? We’re here.

Topics: Incremental Innovation


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