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Strategy Vs Tactics

Optimizing your business and your life.

Vision, purpose, mission, goals. They are big words and there’s value in all of them. But once you’ve worked them out, nothing will happen without action. It’s where strategy and tactics come in. You need both.

What’s the difference between the two?

Strategy is a plan designed to accomplish the end result. Tactics are the procedures that implement the plan.

The strategic plan is the big picture but it is not static. It needs constant review because it’s use-by date starts closing in the moment it is signed off. Perfectly fulfilling the original plan is impossible, even more so if you mindlessly stick to it.

Tactics are actions. They’re up to you. You can turn left or right, or go straight ahead. But they are real time decisions that optimize the strategy. If they don’t work, they’ll show up the shortcomings of the plan. They often inform the strategy, telling when you need to amend it.

Budget airline, Ryanair, faced bankruptcy in the 1990’s. Unable to compete with major carriers, it changed tactics, and ultimately strategy, by switching to low-cost secondary airports, dropping meals and standardizing it’s fleet. You may not be a fan of the often-bizarre views of founder, Michael O’Leary, but he has overseen regular change and adaptation. The airline is now in it’s 29th year.

Tactics are about now.

The beauty of tactics is that you do them in the present.  Whether it’s startup or an established firm, they shift your attention away from the result, putting your focus on the now, often challenging the basic premise of the business.

Google has grown to a dominant position by continually fiddling with its search engine. But the firm’s near monopoly position has exhausted avenues for future growth by constant fine-tuning. Google’s Titan project goes in a different direction, using solar-powered high-flying drones to deliver the internet to more users, rather than grow customers via the quality of its search product.

Tactics don’t need to be that sophisticated. Sometimes it’s allowing simple freedoms. Rather than stick with centralized price fixing, supermarkets like Wal-Mart leaves pricing tactics to local managers.

Nor are tactics the stuff of large businesses. A florist I know realized her customers were always celebrating something. She added a range of premium chocolates, low-cost fashion accessories and eventually, an online hamper service. She’s now in the celebration business.

The rule is consistent effort.

No strategy is perfect, and 100% fulfillment of any plan is near impossible. I don’t know of a person or firm that has reached a point where they say, “Well, that’s it. Everything is done. We have reached ‘there’.”

Whatever the goal, it is inevitably an interim one. Successful people may bask in its achievement, but the day after it’s reached, they’re moving on. Yesterday’s success is already part of the past.

In business as in life, you never get “there”. What maintains your momentum is consistent effort. Focus on your tactics and enjoy the ride. To quote meditation teacher, Edward Mark Vero , “The stretch lives in the consistent attempt of the impossible.” He might be talking about meditation, but it applies to just about everything else.


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