Strategy and tactics are not interchangeable terms. As you probably know, your strategy is your answer to the big question ‘what are you trying to accomplish?’ It relates to your vision for your business and your long-term goal. Tactics relate the smaller scale operations which achieve your objectives along the route to that goal.
Perhaps routes towards your goal would be more accurate. The world is complex and constantly changing. Whilst your long-term strategy needs to remain fixed, there may be various means of getting there and you may have to adapt your tactics accordingly.
If your goal is to provide poached eggs for breakfast, the strategy of poaching needs to remain unchanged. You can’t start frying or scrambling. However, the day-to-day tactics employed may vary. You might try adding vinegar to the water, creating a vortex in the water to crack the eggs into or invest in a specialist poaching pan.
To employ a more relevant example, you may well have a sound social media strategy in place. Perhaps you are using Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with potential clients and uploading content designed to draw them towards your website.
By making changes and experimenting with new methods (in this case perhaps altering the frequency of posts, the timing of posts or the key words and hashtags used) you are adapting the tactics within the strategy. Switching to directly selling your product or service through Facebook would be an entirely new strategy – a ‘back to the drawing board’ type situation.
Strategies should be fixed and tactics should be flexible. In reverse, this can spell disaster – a business with a fluid strategy is one with no sense of direction and a business with fixed tactics is unimaginative and constrained. Assuming you have your strategy and tactics in the right order, you also need to ensure that your business is structured to accommodate their different characteristics.
Anything aspects of your business structure which relate to your strategy need to be appropriately fixed or formal. Formal structures are laid out methods of operating and conducting business both internally and externally. They define the relationships between yourself, your staff and your clients and should clearly address the goal you are trying to achieve.
As tactics can be changed and adapted, a more flexible structure needs to be in place for relevant areas of your business. Flexible structures, by their very nature develop over time. New ways of doing things are tried out and new tactics formulated to take advantage of new technology.
If connecting with people is central to your business, direct human contact may be a key aspect of fixed company strategy. Perhaps research and surveys have suggested that your target clients feel more comfortable, relaxed and engaged when conversing with a flesh and blood human and you feel you can offer a better service when able to assess a client’s reactions whilst in their physical presence.
Rather than Skype sessions or conference calls, you want to ensure that meetings with clients are always conducted in the real world. Whilst no employee should deviate from this strategy, the tactics might vary. Depending on the client, this meeting might take place in an office, a meeting room or a coffee shop. The freedom to adapt this is critical as a client might not be equally comfortable in all three locations.
What are you doing? Meeting with people to assess and address their business needs. How are you doing it? The tactics will vary, depending on the individual. Strategic and tactical planning is essential in building a road map for your business. Creating the correct structure for strategic and tactical operations provides you with the vehicle to travel.