Strategy vs. Tactics…You can’t have one without the other!

Failing to plan is planning to fail
Failing to plan is planning to fail /

Do you ever wonder how some of the biggest companies in the world maintain a high level of business with their customers? What  did they do differently that separates them from their competitors?  Which business strategy did they use to achieve this?  What specific tactics were implemented to get the results they wanted?  It is imperative to dive in and look at what actually separates a strategy from a tactic and vice versa.  While they may both sound similar and are used usually within the same sentence, let’s dig deeper to break down why both terms differ from one another.

What Do They Mean By Strategy?

The term strategy is often referred to as “a method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem.”  It is commonly used when a business sets out an agenda and looks for ways to execute it in a long term capacity.  Some of our favorite brands that we have grown to love and adore have been made possible because of the tactics they have implemented.  Tactics are essentially various processes done in real time that are measured quantitatively and qualitatively.  There is a combination involved of multiple skill sets and tools that are the foundation of a tactic. While strategy involves diligent planning with an end goal, tactics works with given resources that attempts to achieve the objective of a given strategy.

David Kryscynski - What is Strategy?
David Kryscynski – What is Strategy?

Big Businesses Lead By Example

The only way to stand out from your competition, is to literally be different from your peers.  It is about gaining a competitive edge and getting that dominant market share in the financial landscape.  Walmart for example has perfected this.  They evolved from a discount store concept to the largest retailer in the world by using a cost strategy of keeping their operating costs low and at the same time reaping the profits over their nearest competitors.  Apple continues to sell high end tech gadgets and people consume them at record paces.  They have established an identity of selling unique, simplified products which come at a high price point – this cost strategy is known as an Overall Differentiation.  Furniture giant Ikea has also managed to master their market by doing things differently as well, with everything from their design process, to packaging and manufacturing being completely different from their competitors.   Ultimately companies that can address who they compete with, how they can stand out from them, how they will achieve this and what overall value they can bring to the table is what matters most.  The above three mentioned companies incorporate all elements of what is known as the S.M.A.R.T philosophy, which looks at completing such goals by addressing every letter in the acronym with proper validation.

S.M.A.R.T. Objectives
S.M.A.R.T. Objectives

From the Boardroom to the Hardwood?

While the terms strategy and tactics may be executed in the boardroom, who’s not to say the same methods cannot be applied on the hardwood floor?  Take for instance the 6-time NBA World Champion Chicago Bulls, who gained a competitive advantage over their opponents by outsmarting them at both ends of the floor.  In particular, their 1996 squad went on hold a then NBA best 72-10 regular season record that was capped off by the franchise’s fourth title win.  Their team strategy was to be the best team in the league.  How they got there was attributed through their main playbook tactic, highlighted by head coach guru Phil Jackson’s use of the triangle offense.  And while some say tactics are often done below the shoulders, the Bulls were so dominant mainly because they had a weapon in a guy who simply played above the rim…his name was Michael Jordan.  In this example, the coach delivers the given strategies and it is the player(s) who are the tactics who must make the plan come to fruition.

1996 NBA World Champion Chicago Bulls
1996 NBA World Champion Chicago Bulls / NBAE Jonathan Daniel

It’s important to understand that strategy and tactics do not mean the same thing.  You always with a strategy of ideas that you set out, but you will need to have a process of tactics to get the job done.  In comparison, the two terms are synonymous with one another.  While they are interchangeable, they also definitely rely on one another.  It is unfavorable to have a set of tactics in place without any leadership of ideas.  The end result will be chaotic and pointless.  When you are able to ensure that you have a solid foundation of tactics which are outlined by an effective business strategy, you will see the desired end result of success.