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Strategic and Tactical Planning: Understanding the Difference

Strategic and Tactical Planning: Understanding the Difference

David Brydson | SmallBizLink

Many small business owners and operators do not spend much time planning for their business success. The biggest reason, in my opinion, is that they are not aware how easy it can be. Most owners, when they hear the words Strategic Planning or Tactical Planning, get a glazed-eyed look on their faces. Actually, these can be rather simple tasks to manage if you understand a few things about them. Instead most business operators are in a state of confusion about what each of these terms mean.

The reason for this confusion stems from the fact that both words are closely connected and, unfortunately, used interchangeably. Yet, in business terminology, the words strategy and tactics refer to separate business functions and practices.

Strategy Sets the Stage In real world business usage, the term Strategy actually is the thinking process required to plan a change, course of action, or organization. Strategy defines, or outlines, the desired goals and why you should go about achieving them. The strategic planning phase involves business thinkers (namely you – the small business owner) determining why, and in a global sense what, you will achieve in your stated goals. Owners or upper management decide what the guiding philosophy and values will be, and how people involved in the businesses operations should act, in attaining their objectives. It can be a compilation of many complex multi-faceted plans created for achieving your pre-established objectives.

But Tactics Is the Play Tactics are the specific actions you take in implementing your strategy. These actions comprise what is to be done, in what order, using which tools and personnel. You may employ a number of tactics and involve many different departments and people in this effort to reach a common goal. You may even recruit suppliers to accomplish your objectives. Tactics typically requires the involvement of the organization as a whole.

Strategic Planning Process To understand the differences better, here are some notable points to consider, with respect to strategic planning. When doing strategic planning, you need to determine, specifically, what outcome you want to achieve (These are your Objectives) and how you will measure the results.

In addition, you need to establish a realistic baseline or starting point. (Where are you now?) Include in your planning a picture of internal and external realities that will impact your plan. This dictates that you do relevant research (competitive, market, etc). You will then need to craft an aggressive action plan to take advantage of opportunities discovered during your research. This will include a listing of your defined strategic objectives, with the tactics you expect to use to achieve them. The plan should reflect both perceived challenges and the expected end results in order to be complete.

To ensure support for the strategy, it is advisable to conduct consensus-building exercises for the company. You might include Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, and other personnel inside and outside your organization. Any uncertainties and risks will be sure to surface at this point in the strategic planning process.

Tactical Planning Process In tactical planning, you need to understand and decipher the strategic goals; then identify the courses of action you will need to achieve those strategic objectives. Tactical planning is developed by those who deal with getting the work done, day by day. They draw up a tactical plan so they know what to do, when they need to do it, and this will help them deal with the “how” part of the plan. The main question for them is: “How can the strategic goals be accomplished within the designated limits of resources and authority?” The only way that can happen is to insure that the tactics create results which lead to the strategic benefits you desire.

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As a small business owner, you need to make plans that include specific activities that are arranged on specified time frames and have specific outcomes. Ensure the performance of all tactical planning activities and calculate their effects; then help connect the tactical moves to the strategic plan.

In Summary To sum up, strategic planning relates to issues pertinent to the mission of your small business—the purpose of its existence. The responsibility for strategic planning rests with you (and your partners and investors, if any). No one else is ever going to do that work for you, or without your involvement!

Tactical planning relates to actions taken day-to-day, and whose results will move the company forward to achieve the objectives outlined in the strategic plan. The responsibility to plan this belongs to those who perform the work. They are truly the only ones qualified to plan it. Strategic is the what and why. Tactical is the how.

The terms tactical and strategic are fundamental to an understanding of the different responsibilities attached to management and governance of any small business. If you fail to do this for your company, then you are driving a 1000 mile race without a roadmap. If you don’t know where you are going, or how you are going to get there, then where you end up will most likely not be where you hope.

No destination is the destination of the un-destinated!

If you would like help with any part of the planning process or implementation of your plan, please contact BestFit Solutions. As frequent travelers of this road, we can provide a map to make sure you end the race, exactly where you want to be.



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