Strategy vs. Tactics

Early to mid-stage companies need to understand the fundamental importance of  ‘strategy vs. tactics’ in growing a sustainable business and where to spend time effectively.  Let’s first explore the fundamental differences…..

Strategy is a big picture look at the problem that focuses on the forest and not the trees.  Specifically, it represents where the business is trying to get to in the long-term (direction); which markets should the business compete in and how can the business perform better than the competition (markets & competitive advantage); what resources (skills, assets, finance, relationships, technical competence, facilities) are required in order to be able to compete (resources); and finally what are the values & expectations of the Stakeholders (stakeholders).

Tactics present a small picture perspective where individual trees are in focus, but the big picture of the forest is not.  With that said, tactics are the execution component of strategy and critical to value creation.

Ok….where do you spend your time – strategy vs. tactics?  The executive team, led by the CEO’s vision, needs to create the strategy based on a thorough analysis of the marketplace and a high level plan across all areas of the business.  This will take time, cycles & commitment by the executive team to develop an initial strategy for the business.  Once this is complete, communications to the entire company should take place with the expectation that tactical plans (with key metrics) will be developed by each functional group.  Seamless execution needs to take place & be measured to insure the effectiveness of the tactics, as well as the overall strategy.  This is where the rubber hits the road…..constantly evaluating and tweaking both the strategy (executive team only) and the tactics based on marketplace readiness & momentum.  Don’t be afraid to challenge any aspects of the strategy or tactics, as long as it’s fact-based and you provide a recommended alternative.

Once you have a proven strategy & operating model that is producing results, 90%+ of your time should be spent in tactics that contribute to sustainable growth & value creation…you are on your way!