I believe that we (that’s all of us) have gone gaga over “strategy” to our detriment. Now before you get out the pitchforks and torches (or worse stop reading and talking with me) hear me out.
I’m fresh from several weeks of nearly non-stop client meetings (we get to work with some of the best and brightest). During that time we presented. We planned. We proposed. (Sounded like Julius Caesar there for a moment, huh?).
Anyway, I LOVE that stuff. It was no-holds barred, cutting-edge, get-it-done, deliver-net-income strategy planning. Without question the work our clients and we did will change the future of these organizations.
But I had this moment later. Jeff and I had been talking about describing our strategies and our discussion went to how to articulate the difference between “strategy” and “tactics.”
Jeff googled and found this:
The word strategy derives from the Greek word strategos which translates to the art of the general. This is often confused with tactics, from the Greek taktike. Taktike translates as organizing the army. In modern usage, strategy and tactics might refer not only to warfare, but to a variety of business practices.
Essentially, strategy is the thinking aspect of planning a change, organizing something, or planning a war. Strategy lays out the goals that need to be accomplished and the ideas for achieving those goals. Strategy can be complex multi-layered plans for accomplishing objectives and may give consideration to tactics.
Tactics are the meat and bread of the strategy. They are the “doing” aspect that follows the planning. Tactics refer specifically to action. In the strategy phase of a plan, the thinkers decide how to achieve their goals. In other words they think about how people will act, i.e., tactics. They decide on what tactics will be employed to fulfill the strategy.
The tactics themselves are the things that get the job done.
Did you notice that last line? The tactics themselves are the things that get the job done!
In other words, a great strategy without great tactics is nothing but one of those pretty 3-ring binders on your shelf. You know, the one with the great plan that never happened (it’s usually right next to the dusty plaque with your mission statement on it).
All this talk about strategy-this and strategy-that can kill us. I’ve been wrong to be so enamored with great strategy that I haven’t always, always, always closed the tactic loop. Look, it’s not like I don’t care about getting things done. We provide “strategic doing” for our clients which looks a lot like tactics. And in our meetings we talked tactics, but “tactics” doesn’t get people’s juices flowing the way STRATEGY does, which is so wrong considering tactics make strategy real.
I don’t ever want to produce great strategies that fail because tactics weren’t considered. I fear that the focus on strategy alone prevents great organizations from doing their greatest work.
So, next time someone is going on and on about “strategy” listen for the tactics. You don’t want another plan you loved but never got done, do you?
So what do you think about this strategy and tactics conversation? Am I off base? Do you get as pumped about “tactics” as you do “strategy”?
I love hearing what you’re thinking.
And because I can, here’s something you need to watch. No generational slam. I believe he’s talking to all of us with something to say. Besides, I like it.
Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.
(photo credit: ConspiracyofHappiness)