Remember the old saying, “I can’t see the forest for the trees”? It’s an excellent metaphor to explain the often-elusive relationship between strategy and tactics. We see the trees. Each stands tall and proud before us in its own, unique way. Trees are the metaphor for corporate tactics. However, in the business world it can be challenging, if not impossible, to SEE THE FOREST, a broadly ubiquitous and ethereal topographical overlay. The forest is analogous to the ethereal and elusive nature of corporate strategy. Often, strategy is neither seen nor heard outside the executive board room.
What am I missing, you ask? Let me lay it right in front of you: Successful organizations make both strategy and tactics readily visible to their employees. After all, your workforce is the mission critical "boots on the ground", a team of individuals that is charged with getting the job done. And by “done” I mean executing your master plan in a cohesive, highly choreographed and most efficient way.
But, while “the job” is most certainly carried out with specific action steps, or “tactics” the effectiveness, efficiency and the morale of the entire organization rests upon each and every employee buying into the corporate master plan or strategy. Without it, the work of your staff may appear more like solitary trees swaying randomly in the wind, than a well-orchestrated, workforce on its way to mission accomplished.
In plain sight, so-to-speak, the over-arching corporate strategy must be clear to the entire organization. From the executive board to the entry level employee, your strategy needs to be shared, seen, heard, acknowledged and understood.
Strategy answers the biggest corporate question of WHAT. Exactly WHAT will the company and its workforce do within the limits of corporate resources to achieve its goals?
Indoctrinating your staff to the strategy answers the next big question of HOW. HOW to accomplish your strategy through the use of action steps or tactics to effectively emerge and ultimately succeed in the marketplace.
Think of strategy as a map. A master plan for navigating from start to finish. Strategy is the over-arching path forward to achieving a major goal. Be it a short trip or a long-distance journey, strategy is the ubiquitous, grand design—a corporate blueprint for success. It’s this coherently conceived action plan which dictates over time how to best allocate the limited resources available to us—time, money, capital, workforce.
To reiterate: strategy is the “what” of corporate planning the execution, but it comes to life in the choice and use of tactics. Tactics are the “how” of your action plan. These tangible steps using available resources are “how” goals are achieved from an operations standpoint
Your strategy may be to become the pre-eminent, “go-to” player in your marketplace for high-tech, hardware gizmos, beginning with your grand opening launch. Tactics would be the devices and resources used to implement that strategy over time. For example, tactics might include the use of targeted direct mail, promotion of the special grand opening event on your website and social media. It may also include ongoing public relations to establish your expertise as the “go-to” player. You might even buy a radio or TV spot for the big event launch to maximize your momentum out of the blocks. Another tactic could be leasing a billboard on a busy thoroughfare that leads directly to your new business startup.
Strategy is the vision. Tactics are the eyes on the ground. When employees see both strategy and tactics, they see clearly. And when your team sees clearly you not only see the trees and the forest, you win!
Heike Heemann, business coach and advisor, brings over 20 years of business experience to her blog.