Tactics Must Serve Strategy

Dr. John Townsend

September 22, 2015

One of the most resource-draining problems in organizations I deal with is the confusion of tactics with strategy. It causes chaos, cultural problems and creates a need for way too many restarts. Simply put, your strategy should be the path to success, and your tactics are the steps to the path. For example, your company may have a strategic plan to increase market share by 15% by the end of year. You might employ many tactics to support that, such as analyzing the competition, marketing plans and targeted sales training.

The confusion comes when we fall in love with a tactic so much that we elevate it to strategy status. You see this when an organization has a different great idea every month or two, and everyone gets excited, but at the end of the year, there has been no substantial progress. It’s an A.D.D.ish way of running a company, and doesn’t work. Here is the key question to ask when a new bright shiny idea is posed: Show us how this will accelerate the strategy. If that can be evidenced, go for it. But if it diverts, put it in the parking lot for another day. Once in a great while, a tactic is so powerful that it deserves to change the nature of the strategy. But lots of people need to be on board to support that shift. So remember: tactics must always serve the strategy. Your company will solve lots of problems before they happen.

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