When we look up the word strategy or tactics in a dictionary, we almost will find they have similar meanings of plan and methods. Thus comes the confusion about strategy and tactics. What is the difference between them?
Strategy is macrocosmic, while tactics are microcosmic. Michael Porter once defined,“ Strategy is the creation of a unique and valuable position, involving a different set of activities” (Sitompul, Donny. “What Is a Strategy? Michael Porter – Harvard Business Review.” SlideShare. Business, 30 Aug. 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2016). Let us look into their difference in a simple way.
If strategy were brain, tactics would be body. Strategy is purpose-oriented, but tactics are mission-oriented. For example, the goal of my blog is to build up a brand of myself. To reach the goal, it needs 80% of my followers read each post, 50% retweet it and 20% comment on it. This is strategy. How could those percentages be accomplished? It is necessary to set up a clear profile, create nice posts with context and imagery, engage with people efficiently and post links on proper platforms. These actions are tactics.
If strategy were CEO, tactics would be department heads. CEOs who show great foresight make the trade-off in overall situation. They integrate all the resources and keep aware of politics, economy and competitors. They know how to manage different departments perform well together and make measurements. Department heads have specific tasks in a part of the whole process. They play the roles in different domains by using limited resources. They lead their professional teams in order to achieve their sub-goals.
If strategy were marathon, tactics would be supply depots. Strategy is long-term and relatively stable. Tactics are short-term and more flexible to environmental changes. A supermarket group, for instance, makes the strategy of gaining the highest turnover with lower margin in retail industry. What methods could it utilize to reach this long-term goal? There are probably seasonal and weekly promotions, free gifts and bonus activities and membership privilege. All these we can count as tactics which are shorter-term.
Good strategy meets S.M.A.R.T. objectives. Although strategy is the key importance to earn our success, tactics are indispensable. Just as Jeremial Owyang wrote,“ If you have strategy without tactics you have big thinkers and no action. If you have tactics without strategy, you have disorder” (Owyang, Jeremiah. “The Difference between Strategy and Tactics.” Jeremiah Owyang. Web Strategy, 14 Jan. 2013. Web. 20 Sept. 2016). They should work in tandem just as micro-flexibility with macro-control.