Strategy vs Tactics – Long Term Thinking, Short Term Actions

By  Steve

Sometimes our decision-making gets confused. I’ve argued before that we don’t devote enough time to thinking things through and on that vain, I’d like us to explore the difference between strategy and tactics because it matters.

What’s the difference between strategy and tactics?

There are dozens of definitions for these terms. I tend to see strategy as one big overall goal and tactics as the actions needed to achieve the big goal.

Put more formally.

Strategy - A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim. An idea or a plan of how a specific goal can be accomplished.

Tactics - Isolated actions or events that take advantage of opportunities offered by the gaps within a given strategic system. An action you take to carry out your strategy.

The relationship between strategy and tactics

You had better make sure you go far enough into the future when defining your one big goal or it will come back to bite you!

I tend to ask clients to think about their vision and then working out the key strategies to get there. Tactics form part of the steps needed and your operations must be aligned too. You will need to be precise in your vision/goal and it must encompass all which you want to achieve.

“Grand strategy is the art of looking beyond the present battle and calculating ahead. Focus on your ultimate goal and plot to reach it.”

― Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

A final point on the difference between strategy and tactics.

A business strategy is different from a tactic in that tactics may be deployed as part of a single strategy.

Strategy is the overall campaign plan, which may involve complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that lead to tactical execution.

Having worked out your vision, strategy, tactics, and operational requirements you now need to create a feedback loop, so you and your team understand where you are now compared to where you are going and want to be.

That which gets measured gets attention. In other words, find a way to measure each step in the chain and use the feedback to modify what you do and how you execute it.

W. Edwards Demming came up with Plan - Do - Study - Act and is a useful tool for a feedback loop in many circumstances. https://deming.org/explore/pdsa/

Whilst this is a short post its message is vital to understand. The difference between strategy and tactics might seem like semantics but get this understanding wrong and you might pay a dear price in terms of loss of profit growth.


A Tennis playing father of two. The two in question are at an age where everything they do is correct and anything I suggest is stupid!

Luckily business is a tad easier... Once I start to understand the challenges and your vision, I can usually plot a way forward. Understanding and Discovery are my two watch words.


related posts:

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Get in touch