November 30, 2019

Strategy vs Tactics

Sent by Jonathan Stark on December 2nd, 2019

In my experience, the most confused words in business are “strategy” and “tactics”. 

From Wikipedia: 

The terms tactic and strategy are often confused: tactics are the actual means used to gain an objective, while strategy is the overall campaign plan, which may involve complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that govern tactical execution.

IOW, a strategy is very high level and shouldn’t change often. Tactics are low level and will probably change often.

Here’s my favorite example from the silver screen: 

Objective: “Destroy the Death Star.”

Strategy: “Take the Empire off guard by sending an absurdly small force to exploit a critical vulnerability.”

Tactics: “Send 3 small squadrons of x-wings. Get close to surface of the space station and head for the exhaust port. Stay deep in the approach trench to avoid surface guns. Once the TIE fighters show up, have two x-wings flank the leader and defend against enemy fire...”

(So... when Luke shuts of his targeting computer in favor of using The Force, he was making a tactical decision. The strategy and objective were unchanged.)

Here’s the thing...

If you don’t have a strategy (or heck, don’t even have an objective!) all tactics seem viable. A strategy is what you use to decide which tactics make sense.

Without a strategy, you’ll end up engaging in the tactics of guerilla warfare AND frontal assault AT THE SAME TIME! That this isn’t effective is obvious, right?

If you want to make progress (i.e., grow your business, have a bigger impact, and increase your income), you need to have a clearly defined objective and a concise strategy before you even think about selecting tactics.