Published February 25, 2009

The Difference Between Strategic and Tactical Planning

The reason for this confusion stems from the fact that both words are closely connected. In business parlance, the words strategy and tactics refer to various business practices.

In business usage, the term strategy is the thinking process required to plan a change or to organize something. It defines the goals desired and how to achieve them.

It can be a compendium of complex multi-layered plans devised for achieving preset objectives and may include tactical planning considerations.

Tactics and Strategy - The Correlation

Tactics are the substance of strategy. They comprise what is done pursuant to strategic planning. The strategic phase of business planning has thinkers (you- the small business owner) determining ways to achieve stated goals. Simply stated, they plan how people need to act in order to attain the objectives for which the strategy is to be used.

Tactics, on the other hand, are the very actions that are necessary to carry out the strategy. Strategies can be a combination of a number of tactics with the involvement of several different people, all working toward reaching a common goal.

Strategic planning involves only the top brass of an enterprise whereas the tactical planning part envisages the involvement of the organization as a whole.

Strategic Planning

To understand the differences better, here are some notable points with respect to strategic and tactical planning. In strategic planning, you need to determine specifically what outcome you want to achieve and establish a realistic baseline or starting point giving due consideration to internal and external realities by conducting relevant research (competitive, market, attitudinal).

You need to draw up an aggressive plan to support research findings listing defined strategic objectives. The plan should reflect perceived challenges and the expected end results.

To elicit support for the strategy, undertake a consensus-building exercise involving the right people. Make sure that tactics are likely to lead to the strategic benefits you desire to achieve. In tactical planning, you need to understand strategic goals and decipher the goals and implement courses of action for attainment of strategic objectives.

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

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).

Tactical planning is developed by a small business owner or management team who deals with getting the work done to carry out the strategic plan. They draw up a tactical plan that will deal with the "how" part of the plan. The main question for them is: "How can goals be accomplished within the designated limits of resources and authority?"

The terms tactical and strategic are fundamental to an understanding of the different responsibilities attached to management and governance of any small business.