I recently heard a friend refer to a new project as “highly strategic”. I was curious as to the nature of this great strategic project, as typically people in her position don’t often have responsibility for strategic projects. It turns out that her project was a major new advertising and promotion campaign for a large brand.
My friend has fallen into a common trap. She had misunderstood the nature of strategic versus tactical action. A strategic action involves the commitment of significant assets, organizational resources. It is difficult to implement, and difficult to reverse. Typically strategic moves tend to have longer term objectives. Tactical actions tend to “fine tune” strategies, involving fewer resources and are relatively easy to implement and reverse. Tactical actions tend to have shorter term objectives.
Strategies usually are about making decisions. And when we make a decision, we typically eliminate an alternative course of action. Tactics are usually much more flexible. Strategies are about “what” we choose to do. Tactics are about “how” we choose to do it. It is often easier to change the “how” we do things than the “what”.
That’s why developing a strategy is so much harder than developing tactics. Strategies eliminate alternatives and set us toward a specific direction. Those choices are far more risky than a typical tactic. The nice thing about tactics is that they are more flexible. If one doesn’t work, you often have time to try another.
Strategies are the investments of resources that build and grow an organization. Tactics are the day to day actions that get us to our goals.