Earlier today, Old Taskmaster was in yet another boring strategic planning meeting, staring out the window while daydreaming about mediaeval warfare and conquest. Out of the blue, someone pipes up with one of those rudimentary business questions you instinctively assume everyone already knows the answer to.
“What’s the difference between a strategy and a tactic?”
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Kids these days, sitting on their social media sites, peacefully exchanging photos of cats. It seems that in the wowsers’ un-Australian crusade against violent movies and toys, they have cleansed our kids’ minds of the most rudimentary of military metaphors for business.
Why, back in the good ole days, Sonny Jim Crockett, we had toy soldiers and Biggles books – long before the Monty Python parody – and other forms of wholesome olden day entertainment. These taught us the basic differences between vision, tactics and strategy.
Well, if you lived a deprived childhood, here’s a quick refresher. Your vision is your overall goals and objectives – the big picture ambitions of your organisation.
For example, in mediaeval times, General Taskmaster might decide to vanquish the heathen false king and rule the realm. This is the big picture overall goal or objective – the vision.
Of course, it’s all well and good for General Taskmaster to decide to rule the realm. We can decide to do anything we like, but it will count for little if we don’t have a plan to make it happen.
General Taskmaster needs to put a set of actions in place to accomplish our vision. We need a strategy: We need to vanquish the king by seizing his castle!
But what specific actions are needed to seize a castle? After all, the turrets are armed with skilled archers with arrows of flame, the moat is deep, the walls are high and the dark knights are ready to storm across the valley!
This is where tactics come into play. These are, at their simplest, the “how” counterpart to your strategy; the specific actions and details. Will General Taskmaster blitzkrieg the castle or subject it to a protracted siege? Attacking by day or night? By cannon, siege engine or trebuchet? These are all tactical choices that can all accomplish the same strategic end.
Unfortunately, the days of ancient and glorious warfare are long passed. But the metaphors of war are commonplace in business – after all, there’s a reason why books by Sun Tzu and Lord Kitchener are so popular on campus at Harvard Business School.
If you’ve been confused until now about this most fundamental of metaphors, or you’re in the early stages of planning a business, it’s worth thinking through your vision, possible strategies for accomplishing it and the tactics you need to make that strategy work.
Is your overall vision to win your consumers’ loyalty through superior customer service or are you a low-cost business? Is your strategy to advertise the fact you use local call centres or through a series of one-day sales? What tactics are needed to make your call centre strategy or your sales a success?
If you’re more advanced in your business, have some free time on your hands, or are just stuck in between really boring strategic planning meetings, some books on military history might be the order of the day.
Get it done—today!