“Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do; strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.” – Savielly Tartakower
The real problem with tactics and strategy.
Let’s face it, you probably read the title and smugly laughed to yourself pondering how reactionary most people are and how important strategy is. At first glance, we all desire to be strategic. We think this means that we have created our master plan, we have a vision, and our goals are neatly laid out with some sort of ultimate success formula. Strategic just sounds like the smart kind of sexy.
On the other hand, being tactical gets a bad rap. We look down on being tactical as “reactionary” or “getting in the weeds.” Who wants to feel like they are weighing themselves down when you can be strategic?
I’m doubtful that anyone would be willing to admit that they need to be less strategic and more tactical. Even leaders don’t look at these two processes equally. 50% of leaders rated implementation as equal in importance to strategy.
In reality, we need to balance both of these modes to be successful and make time for both practices. Depending on where you are in your visioning process will determine where you need to focus your energy and time.
What does it really mean to be tactical or strategic?
Definitions from Oxford Languages
adjective: strategic: relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them.
adjective: tactical: relating to or constituting actions carefully planned to gain a specific end.
How can you put more significance on one action over the other? Unfortunately, we tend to focus on one side of the equation and then wonder why we don’t achieve our goals.
Being strategic without tactics is just dreaming. A dream is not something you are serious about achieving.
Only 2% of leaders are confident that they will achieve 80-100% of their strategic objectives.
Being tactical without strategy is insignificant. You have to know what hard work is worth doing and what is just going to keep you spinning on the hamster wheel. Unfortunately most of the workforce is blind to the strategic objectives and waste millions of dollars not working on the right things, and not supporting the bigger vision.
95% of employees do not understand their organization's strategy.
Where is your focus?
Take a look at your to-do lists and your calendar. What percentage of your time is dedicated to achieving strategic objectives? Are you doing important things, or just things? What are you putting off and what is getting done immediately?
Other patterns and questions will start to arise as you take this moment to reflect and review. Maybe…
You have a lot of activity but none of it lines up with your strategy.
You have a lot of activity but you aren’t sure it lines up with your strategy.
You start to question your strategy.
You forgot your strategic goals
You don’t have a lot of activity.
Everything feels important and therefore should be tactical, right?
What situation are you in right now? Most people don’t take the time to consider this and go through the motions of annual goal setting and weekly, to-do lists. It takes considerable reflection, insight and focus to achieve your vision. Sometimes it comes from within, and sometimes it takes outside forces to harness the potential in one direction.
If you’re finding that your activity isn’t tactical, you may need to change your activity.
If you’re finding that you don’t know if your actions are tactical then you may need to define your strategy.
If you’re not sure of either, then you may need to do more reflecting and find ways to explore your best path forward.