Strategy vs Tactics: How to Balance Long-Term Vision with Short-Term Execution

CoachHub · 18 January 2023 · 4 min read

For every project or organisation to succeed there must be an alignment between long-term vision and short-term actions. Leadership must define their objectives and values in order to understand their daily priorities.

Having a clear vision that informs daily tasks is the key to balancing long-term strategy with short-term execution. As Sun Tzu states in the art of War “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before the defeat”. One cannot exist without the other.

With a clear strategy, prioritisation of the necessary steps to take toward achieving your goals is simple and straightforward. Define your direction and design your strategy. Hold this vision in mind each day when you allocate your resources and determine your tasks.

The difference between strategy and tactics

Strategy and tactics serve different purposes but should not act alone. Strategy defines where you want to go and how to get there while tactics refer to what you are doing today in order to achieve your goals. The strategy serves a long-term purpose while tactics serve the present moment.

Your strategy should inform your tactics and your tactics should contribute to the success of your strategy. Strategy requires vision, planning and a long-term focus. Tactics require action, small steps and daily tasks. The golden rule is to “think strategically, act tactically”.

Strategy and tactics work together when they are perfectly aligned. If your company decides to set a strategy to increase profits, for example, your daily tactics must include tasks to improve the effectiveness of advertising, create more brand awareness and increase supply chain efficiency.

strategy vs tactics

Developing a strategic plan

A clear strategic plan is the ‘north star’ of your organisation’s operations. Having a defined direction will inform daily decisions and serve as a source of motivation for all employees. A good strategic plan has defined a target audience, analysed competitors, conducted market research and set future objectives.

Forbes offers a comprehensive guide to developing a strategic plan which includes the following steps:

1. What is your current position?

Forbes recommends conducting external and internal audits to get a clear picture of:

  • Marketplace
  • Competitive environment
  • Organization’s competencies

2. What are your priorities?

Understand the top issues facing the long-term mission of your company (markets, customers and products) which will form the basis of your strategic plan.

3. What do you want to achieve?

Define the future vision of your organisation and outline what must be done to address the priority issues.

4. Who is responsible for what?

Set clear roles and define who is in charge of the priority issues and responsible for delivering the defined objectives.

5. What needs to be changed?

It is advised to hold quarterly formal reviews of the process in order to refine and adjust to the evolving needs of the organisation.

Implementing tactical actions

Tactical actions are the small steps your organisation will take on a daily basis to ensure the overall success of your strategy. It is vital that tasks are prioritised efficiently so that teams are aware of the most time-sensitive and impactful tasks.

While tactical tasks must be clearly defined, it is important to leave room for flexibility and adaptability in tactical execution. Competitors, consumer trends and economies are volatile and unpredictable. Your tactics must be able to cater to market fluctuations and adapt to industry changes.

Indeed.com recommends considering the following points when implementing a tactical plan:

1. Pay attention to the vision

Ensure employees understand the larger goal and how they contribute to its success. Allow them to suggest their ideas to improve engagement and motivation.

2. Create objectives and goals

Prioritise your objectives based on what your company needs most while considering your team’s capabilities and current workload.

3. Assign actions to objectives

Assign actions to each objective and delegate actions to specific employees or teams.

4. Determine KPIs

Evaluate performance weekly or quarterly to help employees know if they’re making progress toward their objectives.

5. Use tools and resources

Ensure teams have access to the right tools and resources in the form of software, online platforms and training.

6. Allow for flexibility

Allow for variables that may impact your team’s progress. Being flexible and adaptable is crucial to tactical planning.

Coaching as a key lever for success in organisational transformation

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Digital coaching as a tool for improving strategic and tactical skills

Working with a digital coach when establishing and implementing strategic and tactical plans is an excellent way to ensure they are relevant and impactful. A coach can help to establish long-term goals, define key issues to tackle and outline the most important actions to take.

Regular coaching sessions with a professional coach who specialises in corporate strategy and tactics will greatly improve your existing strategies and tactics while improving your own skills in this area. Coaching offers professional mentorship, expert strategies and guidance when adjustments are needed.

How to find a reputable and qualified digital coach:

  1. Define your coaching goals and know what you are looking for
  2. Research coaches specialising in strategy and tactics
  3. Make use of free consultations
  4. Ask for proof of their credentials
  5. Ask for testimonials
  6. Outline your top priorities and ask each coach if they can deliver
  7. Choose a trustworthy coach that you feel confident with

Conclusion

Defining a strategy and executing tactics is the vehicle that will drive your organisation forward. If the two are not working together, your organisation will waste valuable resources. Working with a digital coach to guide strategic planning and tactical execution can be a critical factor in your success. A neutral, professional and specialised coach has the insight and expertise to direct your organisation during the planning, execution and adjustment phases. Thinking strategically and acting tactically is a sure formula for success, so long as they are flexible and aligned.

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Cathy Stapleton
Cathy is an Irish writer based in Berlin, Germany who is passionate about using words to inspire growth. As a certified mindfulness facilitator and performance coach, Cathy aims to create work that helps people connect with themselves and heighten their awareness. When she is not writing she is usually running in nature, meditating or contemplating an existential crisis.

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