What’s The Difference Between a Strategy and A Tactic?

Business women having a strategy meeting

Jereon Flanders is one of the world’s most influential thinkers on strategy execution and a highly regarded keynote speaker. One of his favorite motivational quotes is by Sun Tzu, a revered Chinese military strategist, philosopher, and writer. He once wrote, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” The question of using strategy vs. tactic comes up often in leadership coaching situations, and it’s valuable to consider their relationship.

Strategy, Tactic, and the Business Leader

Strategy and tactic are often used interchangeably. “Tactics” tends to have a more negative connotation, like something sneaky that a car salesman does to get your money. “Strategy” is lauded as being forward-thinking and proactive, something creative and clever that helps you achieve long-term goals.

Both are necessary when it comes to running your business. Both can be positive and creative. Both can be negative and underhanded. The semantics of the words aren’t particularly relevant. What matters is that you’re bringing business strategies and business tactics together to make smart moves for your company.

Strategy vs. Tactic

So, what is the proper definition of strategy vs. tactic?

A strategy is a plan, with measurable objectives and time constraints. We’ve talked about SMART goals in the past. Setting SMART goals is part of developing a strategy. Think of strategy as your to-do list. For example, if you’re creating a strategy for cleaning your kitchen by 6:00 the evening of a party, you’d write down all the things you need to accomplish: wash the dishes, wipe the counters, sweep the floor. That to-do list is your strategy for reaching the ultimate goal of having a clean kitchen.

The tactics that you use could be any number of ideas, tools, and resources that help you accomplish your task. Going back to the clean kitchen example, one tactic for working through your strategy is loading the dishwasher. Another tactic could be using a multipurpose cleaner on the counters. Finally, your room sweeping tactic would be to grab a broom! Your tactics are the methods you use to fulfill the objectives outlined in your strategy.

Why Does This Matter?

To understand why distinguishing the nuances of strategy vs. tactic are essential, let’s look back at Sun Tzu’s quote.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.” Setting objectives and working towards them is not worthwhile without a full understanding of the methods, tools, and resources that you’re going to use.

“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Using incredible tools and resources without a purpose means that you’re looking at a waste of money, time, and energy that could be put into growing your business.

Are you ready to bring strategy and tactics together into functional objectives that help grow the value of your business? Are you tired of spending money on the latest tech tool with no idea how to incorporate it into the goals of your company? Working with a business coach like Lori Moen means access to over 35 years of real-life experience and expertise as both a business owner and a professional advisor. Head on over to the contact page to find out more about what she has to offer and learn about her coaching programs that throw out the cookie-cutter approach. We look forward to hearing from you!

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