Strategy and Tactics: Differences and Relationships

Strategy and Tactics: Differences and Relationships The word strategy was first used in the military world and was used 500 years BC by Sun Tzu in The Art of War. This word was introduced to the business world with the beginning of the industrial revolution, however its massive used started about 100 years ago. It’s very difficult to find, although you can always find exceptions, organizations that don’t have some type of strategy. However many still have problems differencing between strategy and tactics.

For today’s article I want to try to explain the difference between these two words, bases on my personal experience. If you do a quick search, you will find many different meanings to the words strategy and tactics, so that’s why I’m giving you my personal view of them. Please, if you have a different view or definition about these words, please share it at the end of this post in the Comments section.

I want to start by giving the definition of strategy that I like the most. It’s a short definition, given by Kotler and Keller, however it’s quite useful. Here it is:

Strategy is a company’s game plan for achieving its goals

I have highlighted in bold font the most important words of this definition.

It is crucial to identify the 2 scenarios where strategy is used. The first one is the game plan used to reach the objectives of the firm.  The second one is to set the strategic plan, which usually has to do with budget analysis and others (you can read more here). For this article, I’m using the first definition.

When we want to create a strategy, we have to know the objectives of our organization. For instance, the objectives can be to create and sell a new product, increase market share, increase the brand’s top of mind and heart, enter a new market or business and increase profit, among many others. If we want to create a new product, we would have to create a strategy that delivers this objective. In this example, we could devise a new department inside the company or hire an outside firm to create the product. If for instance, we want to increase market share, we would have to create a market plan where our products have greater exposure and visibility.

After we have created the strategies, we have to execute them, on what’s known as the tactics. We have defined on a paper or our mind what we want to do in the strategy, now we must deploy it. In the last example, we wanted to increase market share. In the tactics we might decide to sponsor specific sports teams and have a wide presence on massive public events, like concerts.

One of the benefits of thinking in terms of strategy is that we can measure its results. Among many others, we can measure the amount of money invested, the return over investments, the impact of our efforts and increase in sales. However the best strategy won’t work if the right people do not execute the tactics. It’s advisable to include the people who will perform the tactics in the strategy phase.

So this is my personal view on strategy and tactics. As you can see they are very different but related as one can’t work well without the other.

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