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Strategic vs. Tactical Planning: The What, When, & Why

Meredith Hart

Published: March 01, 2022

Whether you've set personal or business goals, you likely created a plan to achieve them. Without clearly defined steps, it can be difficult or even discouraging to tackle the goal you've set.

Strategic vs. Tactical Planning

One example of a situation where planning and strategy come in handy is during a job search . Let's say you've spent weeks or months scouring the internet for a new sales job, but none of the job postings seem to match your skill set or career interests.

Have you taken a step back and thought about a specific type of sales job you want? And did you consider the most important qualities you're looking for in an employer or career?

Your online job search will become less tedious and disheartening if you have a clear set of objectives to follow. While you might get more search results for "sales manager", you'll find jobs that are a better fit for you if you clarify by searching for "senior sales manager - medical devices."

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With your new search strategy, you've identified a seniority level and the industry you'd like to work in. The next steps you set for yourself are to periodically repeat this search and only apply to the roles that seem like the best fit for you and your career aspirations.

Thinking strategically helps you narrow down your search and use your time more effectively. Plus, you'll increase the likelihood of landing a job that's a great fit for you.

Once you aced your interviews and landed the perfect sales job, you'll find that these types of planning, strategic and tactical, are used by many businesses and sales teams to set themselves up for success.

Strategic vs. Tactical Planning

Strategic planning lays out the long-term, broad goals that a business or individual wants to achieve. And tactical planning outlines the short-term steps and actions that should be taken to achieve the goals described in the strategic plan.

Your strategic plan provides the general idea of how to reach a goal, and the tactical plan is where you lay out the steps to achieve that goal.

Since the objectives set in the strategic plan are more general and are evaluated over a longer period of time, strategic planning typically occurs at the beginning of a year, quarter, or month. These plans should be reviewed every quarter.

Tactical planning occurs after the strategic plan is outlined, and the tactical plan can be reexamined on a more frequent basis — if need be.

Details how the purpose, duration, and output differs between Strategic and Tactical Planning in black and light grey

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Here are some high-level examples that touch on the difference between the two types of planning.

Strategy vs. Tactics

Let's consider the perspective of a hypothetical company analyzing different strategies to improve different aspects of its sales operations.

1. Sales Recruitment

2. Smarketing

3. Technological Infrastructure

Taken together, the strategies and tactics a sales organization employs — like the ones listed above — comprise what are known as sales plans.

Sales Plans

A sales plan encompasses both strategic and tactical planning and contributes to an organization's overarching sales strategy . It outlines the broad goals your sales team and reps should strive for, and it creates an action plan to reach them.

The strategic plan sheds light on the mission, objectives, and future goals of the organization or individual. Managers, VPs, and executives typically create strategic plans for an organization, but this type of plan can also be used by individuals to achieve personal or professional goals.

These are the key components to include in a strategic plan:

Strategic planning and tactical planning provide guidelines for businesses, teams, and individuals to follow. And the tactical plan outlines exactly how they'll achieve the final result.

Strategic Goals vs. Tactical Goals

A major part of planning, whether it’s strategic or tactical, is setting goals. You should actually set goals for both your strategic planning and your tactical planning. Having those objectives clearly laid out helps push your plans into direct action. Your strategic goals should be broader while your tactical ones should be more specific.

For example, a strategic goal may be to develop a company culture that encourages growth and retention. A tactical goal may be to survey all existing employees to gain information on why they weren’t retained. If your tactical planning and your strategic planning are related, then the goals for each should also have a connection between them.

Strategic Planning

A strategy is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time.” So, strategic planning is meant to achieve something for the bigger picture.

Tactical planning includes the immediate actions that feed into the larger purpose outlined by a strategy. These plans are carried out in the long term and incorporate big, impactful changes. There are nine strategic planning models your business can use as a starting point.

South Dakota Mines strategic plan with vision and mission statements in blue and white.

Strategic Planning Examples

IT company's strategic business initiatives in blue, orange, and white

Since tactical planning is more direct, it’s often more specific to your team or business. Strategic plans, however, are often broad enough to be applied to a whole niche or industry. For instance, strategic planning for sales could involve some similar goals across different companies, but their tactical plans may be unique. Here are a few examples of strategic plans that could apply to different businesses.

Tactical Planning

Tactical planning occurs after a business, team, or individual has created a strategic plan that outlines general goals and objectives. A tactical plan describes the steps and actions that must be taken to achieve the goals from the strategic plan.

Once you've created your strategic plan, it's time to determine the tactics you'll use to reach your goals. This is where the tactical plan comes into play.

It's used to outline the steps a business or individual will need to take to accomplish the priorities that have been set. Here are a few things to consider when developing your tactical plan:

Your tactical plan will provide the answers to these questions to help you meet the objectives of the strategic plan.

So, what do strategic and tactical planning look like in practice?

Tactical Planning Examples

While strategic and tactical plans can vary by company or industry, there are some that can apply to many sales organizations and teams.

Here are a few examples that are common for sales teams and reps. The strategic plans are numbered, and the tactical plans are outlined below.

1. Fill my pipeline with more leads over the next two weeks.

2. Close more enterprise deals each month.

3. Hire 20 more entry-level sales representatives by the end of Q1.

Your Business Needs Both Strategic and Tactical Planning

There is a purpose to both strategic and tactical planning. Each moves your business’ progress closer to larger goals and objectives. With a solid strategic plan and a detailed tactical plan, you'll be well-equipped to grow your business.

Editor's note: This post was originally published on February 28, 2019, and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Strategic vs. Tactical Planning: Which One is Better?

At a business meeting, management has set an ambitious goal of new sales to hit by the end of the year. The salespeople are excited, and company leadership is eager for their organization to achieve new heights. The question remains: How will they reach this new goal? That’s the dilemma many organizations struggle with as they seek to grow their businesses. Anyone can set goals and objectives, but achieving them is another matter. Planning your strategy and tactics is essential. Knowing the difference between tactical vs. strategic planning is often the difference between succeeding or failing to reach those goals.

What is a Strategic Plan?

What is a tactical plan, what is the difference between strategy and tactics, examples of strategic and tactical planning, how to create a strategic plan, how to create a tactical plan, be both a strategic and tactical leader.

Few people doubt the importance of planning ahead before tackling any project. A  study  published in the Journal of Business Venturing found that planning impacts a business’s overall performance in a positive way. A business plan helps companies grow as well.  Research  has found that organizations that plan grow up to 30 percent faster. For this reason, businesses need to prepare in advance to remain competitive and successful. Recognizing where strategic and tactical business planning come into play makes a difference. In this article, find out the difference between strategy and tactics and how to create each type of plan.

Key Takeaways

A strategic plan explains  what  organizations want to achieve by looking at the big picture to set goals. The strategy businesses adopt maps out the long-term plans they intend to follow. This can also apply to individuals seeking career advancement and professional development. Strategic planning for this purpose outlines the overall goals, identifying the destination you want to reach in the future.

A tactical plan describes  how  a business will accomplish its goals. Tactical plans focus on the steps, tasks, and specific actions needed to achieve goals set by the established strategic plan. In this way, the tactical business planning process emphasizes short-term measures that contribute to a larger business strategy. Whether used for corporate planning, team planning, or individual plans, this type of planning is necessary for following through on strategic objectives.

Strategic planning represents the long-term view of an organization. Strategic plans mainly deal with broad goals and objectives. Many strategic plans have time frames of months or even years. They also involve looking at what resources the company has available and what kind of people can tackle the project.

The tactical planning process, on the other hand, is far more specific than strategic planning. Much of the time, tactical planning looks at the day-to-day activities required for reaching broader objectives. A tactical plan should consist of milestones and deadlines that help companies know if they’re on track with their strategic plans. This type of planning also emphasizes execution, ensuring that things don’t just get done but done well.

With those differences in mind, let’s take a look at some examples that highlight how strategic and tactical planning work. A strategic plan might say something along the lines of “recruit highly skilled individuals to form a capable and talented team.” That’s a goal with some broad strokes, but a tactical plan will get into the specifics. In this instance, tactical or corporate planning would include steps such as conducting surveys of current employees to find out what they like and don’t like about their jobs. It may also include attending job fairs, creating effective exit interviews to figure out why some talented people leave the company or developing a training program to improve  leadership skills . All of these tactical steps will contribute to the strategic plan.

Here’s how strategic and tactical planning might appear, with the strategic plan listed on top and the tactical plans shown underneath:

That’s just a brief example of how strategic and tactical planning might look. Leaders can also write each part of the tactical plan in smaller steps if that’s what the company wants. The more details worked into the plan, the easier it will be to follow and measure progress.

1. Identify a Big Picture Goal

What ultimate destination do you want to end up at? That’s the question every business and individual must ask when making a strategic plan. Do you want your company to become the leader in their industry? Do you want to head up a new innovative company? The big picture goal should be lofty and aspirational, even if it’s not too specific.

2. Evaluate Your Current Position

Take the time to look closely at where the company is now. Try using SWOT analysis, which is a strategic planning tool that analyzes strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. For example, ask questions like:

By evaluating your current position, you can get a good idea of how much distance the company must cover to reach its long-term goals. If the distance is short, then maybe the goal isn’t big enough.

3. Align Goal With Company Values

Whatever goal companies choose, they must make sure it aligns with their values. Every organization should have a  mission statement , so a goal that runs contrary to that mission statement should be thrown out. Take your values and convictions into account as you are strategic planning, as they can often inform you if the destination you’ve identified is actually where you want to end up.

4. Determine How to Monitor Progress

The goal set by the organization is likely many months or years into the future. Progress may appear slow at times. Because of this, determine early on how you should measure that progress. For example, with a marketing plan, what would you like to see six months from now? Where should sales be by the end of the quarter? By doing this, you’ll know if you need to course-correct before you’ve gone too far off the path.

1. Keep Strategic Goals in Mind

Strategic planning provides the destination and general outline of what the company wants to achieve. Create every piece of the tactical plan with that overall goal in mind. Operational planning like this gets into the nitty-gritty details, so it’s easy to become bogged down in unnecessary information. Note why each step of the tactical plan exists, and if it doesn’t make progress toward the goal, eliminate it.

2. Divide the Plan

When you know your ultimate destination and the approximate time frame needed to reach it, break up that goal into individual steps. Start with where you want to arrive at the end of each month, then each week, and then each day. These steps represent your progress and help teams keep track of where they are. Breaking up larger projects like this enables you to visualize how you’ll reach long-term goals.

3. Organize Teams

Once all the steps of the tactical plan have been established, note how many teams you need to achieve success. Then organize those teams to handle the different elements of the tactical plan. When engaging in corporate planning like this, you should have a good idea of what kind of expertise you have on staff. Based on the skills of the available personnel, you can determine where to place each person, so they have the best chance at success.

4. Determine Resource Allocation

At the same time, companies can also divide up the available resources, so each team has what they need to succeed. Everyone should know that these resources aren’t limitless, so make sure to explain why they get the amount you’ve allocated. This step can involve difficult choices, but with a firm tactical plan in mind, you’ll have a good idea of where your resources need to go.

5. Measure Progress

Determine how to measure progress for a tactical plan. Measuring progress for this plan will happen more frequently, such as at the end of each day or week. Determine how well you and each team did during the day and see if you need to make any changes to keep on schedule. If changes need to be made, make sure they address the problems you encounter most often.

Focusing too much on one side of strategy or tactics will lead to frustration and failure in operational planning. The best practices in a business involve both strategy and tactics. As you lead others, note the importance of having both strategic and tactical plans at the ready. Aim high with your strategies, and pinpoint the details with your tactics. The best leaders will use both to take their organizations to where they want to go. The result will be a company that experiences  business growth  and success.

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Strategy Vs. Tactics: The Main Difference & How to Track Progress Of Both

Strategy Vs. Tactics: The Main Difference & How to Track Progress Of Both

You’ve probably heard people in your company argue about both strategy and tactics when they're talking about strategy implementation . These are common terms and are thrown around regularly in articles online and in the office—and are often confused. So, we’re here to set the record straight on the difference between tactics and strategy.

strategic vs tactical business plans

There are quite a few differences between strategy and tactical planning. In short, strategic planning is used to set destination and how you are going to get there, and tactical planning outlines the specific actions you are going to take along the way. Below, we’ll expound on strategy vs tactics, the differences and similarities between the two, and explain how you can track the progress of each.

Strategy Vs. Tactics: The Difference

About 2,500 years ago, Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War.” In it, he said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Tactics and strategy are not at odds with one another—they’re on the same team. (And they have been for many centuries!) Here’s how we define the tactical vs. the strategic:

What makes a good strategy?

A solid strategy reflects the core values of the organization. Your strategic team should gather input from across the organization to ensure there’s alignment between the strategy and each department’s priorities. All strategies should be actionable.

When creating a good strategy, focus on the desired end result (the goal). Your strategy is the foundation for all activities within the organization, and how it’s crafted will guide decision-making as your teams work to achieve those goals. For example, if a furniture company has a goal to expand market share, its strategy could include offering the most competitive prices and always being in stock of common offerings. Leadership teams will make decisions that prioritize lower costs.

What makes a good tactic?

A good tactic has a clear purpose that aids your strategy. It has a finite timeline during which specific activities will be completed and their impacts measured.

A tactic for the furniture company would be to analyze manufacturing processes to minimize waste and inefficiencies, thereby decreasing cost and, by extension, prices for customers. The company can clearly measure the success of the tactic by comparing their costs before and after the analysis.

Overall, the rule of thumb for understanding the difference between strategy and tactics is, “Think strategically, act tactically.”

Here are a few examples of how strategy and tactics interact that will help you differentiate between the two terms:

3 Strategy Vs. Tactics Examples

To help clarify the concept even further, let’s look at a few examples.

Local Government

For a local government, accountability and responsiveness are cornerstones of good governance. Therefore, you may have an overarching goal to improve transparency.

‍ Your strategy: To achieve that goal, you decide to improve your communication strategy by adopting and implementing new channels of two-way communication. Not only will this help you understand what people want (and need), but it will also help you keep people informed.

‍ Your tactics: Some tactics you might use to achieve that strategy could include:

These tactics have a clear end time, and, if accomplished, will ultimately contribute to reaching the overall goal.

Most school systems are continuously striving to improve learning outcomes as demonstrated through standardized test scores. There are a variety of strategies and tactics you could adopt to accomplish that mission.

‍ Your strategy: You decide to focus on incorporating more technology into the classroom as a way to improve student engagement, which has been shown to positively impact learning.

‍ Your tactics: Some tactics you might use to achieve that strategy would be:

These tactics have a clear purpose that will aid the strategy, and a finite timeline. Once complete, they will bring you closer to achieving the strategy.

A common problem faced by many healthcare organizations is related to hospital capacity: The demand for patient beds exceeds the supply. With an overarching mission of improving the health of the community you serve, this is an issue that needs to be addressed.

‍ Your strategy: Since you don’t have land for new construction, your strategy is to make your internal processes more efficient to improve patient flow, thereby freeing up beds more quickly.

‍ Your tactics: Some tactics you might use to achieve that strategy might be:

These tactics will help identify bottlenecks in your existing processes and provide data you can use to make better decisions, all of which will hopefully unlock greater capacity within the resources that already exist.

Track Progress Of Your Strategy & Tactics

Strategy and tactics are two parts of the same puzzle—they work together to help your organization achieve long-term success. It’s important to actively review both periodically to ensure you’re making progress.

Let’s take a look at how you would measure each in practice, and how using ClearPoint , a strategy reporting software, can help drive results.

Measuring Strategy

To track your strategy , you’ll need to choose some key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help gauge performance.

A good KPI uses quantifiable data to answer questions about progress and give you ideas on how to further improve those numbers. For example, if your strategy is to increase customer satisfaction, a net promoter score (NPS) could be the KPI. There are many factors that might go into the answer for a NPS score, and with the help of additional questions, an organization could learn which areas to focus their improvements on.

Remember to set targets that specifically detail your KPIs and break them down into achievable timeframes. ( Here’s an article that explains how to do that. ) Take a look at other organizations in your market or review your past performance to choose appropriate targets. If your KPI performance seems to be consistently lagging without much concern, you could try giving targets more weight; some organizations tie KPI performance to incentives like end-of-year bonuses to encourage engagement.

Following one of our earlier examples, if your goal as a school administrator is to implement technology to improve student engagement and retention, you might be measuring students’ standardized test results. But depending on what kind of success you were seeing, you could then begin measuring scores on classroom tests or overall student grades every quarter. This type of measurement should be able to validate if using technology in classrooms is helping with grades. It might also reveal other new paths to succeeding. Perhaps the technology is having an impact on grades overall, but there’s still a piece missing that better links classroom learning to standardized testing—indicating the need for a change in tactics.

Tracking Strategy & Tactics In ClearPoint

There’s a lot of data associated with strategy tracking—and a lot of pitfalls that could prevent you from doing it right. ClearPoint was designed specifically to help organizations of all kinds stay on track when it comes to strategy execution. It allows you to view all relevant information associated with your strategies and tactics in one place, making it easier to understand and analyze progress, and even change course when you need to. In ClearPoint, you can visualize the linkage between connected elements (strategies and tactics), and create customized dashboards and views that allow other people in your organization to easily gain insight into performance.

As an example, the ClearPoint summary report below is for a local government. It shows a clear alignment between city strategies (goals) and tactics, along with status indicators (green, yellow, or red), qualitative analysis, tactic owners, percent complete, and end dates.

Alignment report - Strategy vs. tactics - ClearPoint Strategy

When you can easily see how all the pieces of your strategy—including tactics and KPIs—fit together, you have a clearer view of which activities are actually moving the needle in the right direction. In ClearPoint, you can see the goals that are linked to your KPIs. So, if you see a KPI is improving but the associated strategy remains unchanged, perhaps the KPI doesn’t have the influence you thought it had, and it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

In ClearPoint, you can also create dashboards that pull in additional relevant information. Below is a status snapshot of any of the government’s goals that have fallen behind plan, along with the strategy that was implemented to achieve the goal. You can also see a tactic snapshot showing the status of all of your tactics, and finally, the alignment summary report from above, all on the same page, allowing you to gain quick insights. You can then make any changes in strategy as needed.

Scorecard dashboard - Strategy vs. tactics - ClearPoint Strategy

Measuring Tactics

With your tactics, it’s more about your planning and the components therein. Tactics typically have a start and end date, certain allocated resources, and a number of milestones and action items to help achieve the tactic. You want to be sure that you hold each member of your organization accountable for the tactics they’re in charge of, so you should always assign ownership when a tactic is assigned. Viewed together, your tactics will give you the concrete steps you need to track anything relating or tied to your strategy, included related OKRs or KPIs . If you’ve allocated resources to a tactic, remember to track how they’re being used and how much budget you have remaining.

It’s easy to speak about your strategy and your tactics as if they’re the same thing. They do rely heavily on one another and are both very important to keep track of, but the terms shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

Before you implement your strategy, make sure you’ve got stakeholder buy-in and you’ve addressed any hesitations. Once you’ve ironed out concerns and are ready to execute, communicate your strategy across the organization to provide meaning and context around each department’s activities. It’s very important that everyone understands your strategy. Teams should know how the tactics they’re working on contribute to the overall goals of the organization.

And finally, don’t forget to consistently review and evaluate your strategy. No business environment stays static, and holding strategic reviews to check in will ensure you adapt to any changes and stay on track.

‍ Looking for the abbreviated version? Here’s a neat visual summary highlighting the key points of this comparison, created with Visme . Enjoy!

infographic summarizing the differences and interaction of strategy and tactics, good strategy, good tactics, measuring tactics, strategy vs tactics, strategy, strategies, tactics, kpi, measuring kpis,

RJ Messineo

RJ assists clients throughout their ClearPoint journey, ensuring smooth implementation and management of accounts.

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Strategic vs. tactical planning: Which one is better?

by Author: Nahla Davies

tactical vs strategic

As a small business owner , you need to know how to create, organize, and execute a plan to maximize your success. But there’s more than one type of planning. In fact, understanding the differences between strategic vs. tactical planning is key to achieving your business goals. Let’s break down strategic and tactical planning in detail.

We’ve got your comprehensive guide.

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Put those new planning skills to work.

What is strategic planning?

Put simply, strategic planning involves deciding what your business should achieve by looking at the big picture and/or long-term goals. Strategic planning is focused more on what specifically your business will do, make, or reach, such as profit benchmarks, opening a certain number of new stores in the next year, and so on.

Strategic planning is different from tactical planning due to its scope, timespan, and thought processes behind it.

What is tactical planning?

Tactical planning is the short-term counterpart to strategic planning. It involves defining and/or describing how your business will accomplish the goals set out by strategic planning.

Specifically, tactical planning means determining the steps, tasks, projects, or specific actions that you need to take in order to achieve your long-term, broad goals. Because of this, tactical planning often emphasizes short-term actions or strategies that contribute to long-term strategies.

Tactical planning is differentiated from strategic planning by its smaller scope, shorter time spans, and more specific thought processes.

specific actions

Differences between tactical vs. strategic planning

There are many important differences between tactical vs. strategic planning.

For starters, tactical and strategic planning have different scopes and time frames. Strategic planning focuses on broad-scope objectives and goals, such as how you will expand your business over the next several years. Tactical planning, in contrast, focuses on short-term or smaller-scope objectives and goals. Like how you will sell a certain number of units in the next week, how you will hire a certain number of employees by the end of the next quarter, and so on.

Because of those differences, both strategic and tactical planning are also different in terms of the resources they consume. Most strategic plans don’t consume a lot of resources initially. But may require large expenditures of resources such as money, personnel, or equipment as they are fulfilled. Tactical plans consume more resources initially, so accounting for their costs accurately is oftentimes easier.

Furthermore, strategic planning is focused on generalized, long-term goals and objectives. It doesn’t focus on day-to-day tasks or how things will get done. Because of this, strategic planning usually has more milestones, which serve as markers for a team to determine how close they are to ultimate project completion. Tactical planning doesn’t use milestones so much as it uses deadlines.

Since tactical planning is shorter term, it emphasizes execution. In other words, with tactical planning, how things get done is just as important as them getting done at all. Thus, tactical planners or project managers may frequently focus more on getting the right people into positions to accomplish a specific job or task.

project manager

Strategic planning tips

There are lots of ways in which you can execute strategic plans wisely.

For starters, good strategies usually involve a lot of data. Data-informed decisions are key components of all top strategies, especially those that focus on achieving long-term objectives. If you want to build a strong long-term vision that is both achievable and desirable for your organization, you need to look at a lot of data.

Furthermore, good strategic plans have clearly defined goals, even if they may be somewhat broad in scope. For example, if you want to improve your customer survey responses in general, you still need to know what improved survey responses look like so your team can take the appropriate steps to achieve that goal. Or if you want to boost your marketing strategy, you need to know what results you’re chasing.

Above all else, make sure that your brand strategic plans are aligned with long-term company goals. For example, every creator wants to make more money in the current year than they did in the last year. However, you might acquire that extra income in a variety of different ways, such as by cutting down costs, increasing sales, improving your product offerings, or something else entirely.

Your strategic plans should help to drive the growth of your business, and your tactical plans will help you execute those strategic plans step-by-step.

long term goals

Strategic planning examples

You can better understand strategic planning by looking at a few key examples.

For instance, strategic plans are usually broad and can be applied to your entire business or even an entire industry. Some examples of strategic plans include:

As you can see, some strategic plans have concrete goals, while other strategic goals are more generalized or broad (such as “expand your customer service team” by some amount/measure.)

time frame

Tactical planning tips

There are also tips and strategies you can use to execute tactical plans smartly and successfully.

Firstly, tactical plans are always relatively short-term compared to long-term plans. If you are having difficulty visualizing this, take one of your strategic goals, then break it up into achievable steps that you can complete in a matter of weeks or months. Each of those steps is a tactical plan you can execute.

Additionally, remember that tactical plans must be actionable and time-bound. Because of this, they should be subject to strict deadlines and have more specific steps or guidance for team members or employees who are responsible for fulfilling tactical plan objectives.

All in all, tactical plans need to be deliverable to specific teams or individuals. Those teams and individuals should then be able to carry out the tactical plans without constantly consulting with upper management or executives.

Tactical planning examples

Here are some examples of tactical plans that an organization might implement:

Tactical plans are almost always specific and achievable with set deadlines. 

man at computer desk

Implementing your planning

Ultimately, both strategic and tactical planning are important elements of business leadership and management. To take your business as a creator to the next level, you’ll need to master both types of planning and understand how to leverage both in different scenarios. Remember to start with strategic planning to outline your broader organizational goals, then use tactical planning to achieve the goals outlined during your strategic planning sessions.

What comes first, tactics or strategy?

Strategy needs to come first before any tactics. That’s because you define or develop tactics in order to carry out broader, long-term strategies.

What are the 5 Ps of strategy?

The five Ps of strategy are: Plan, Ploy, Pattern, Position, and Perspective. They were developed by the management guru Henry Mintzberg, who came up with them to help leaders come up with multilayered and effective strategies.

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Strategy vs. tactics: What's the difference?

Sarah Laoyan contributor headshot

The terms “strategy” and “tactics” originated as military terminology, but are now widely used today in a professional setting. Learn how you can use both strategy and tactics to build your business strategy.

Chess grandmasters don't blindly go into the game moving pieces around randomly. They have well thought out and precise moves to gain the upper hand against their opponent.

What's the difference between strategy and tactics?

The terms "strategy" and "tactics" originated as military terminology derived from Sun Tzu's The Art of War . Since then, they've been adapted to fit different situations beyond just military usage, including business strategy. 

Definition of strategy

A strategy is an action plan that you will take in the future to achieve a final end goal. Strategies help to define your long-term goals and how you go about achieving them.

Definition of tactics

While strategy is the action plan that takes you where you want to go, the tactics are the individual steps and actions that will get you there. In a business context, this means the specific actions teams take to implement the initiatives outlined in the strategy. 

If we go back to the chess analogy, strategy is positioning your pieces in a specific arrangement to get to where you want to be. Tactics are that act of moving said pieces into those positions. 

The relationship between strategies and tactics

In The Art of War , Sun Tzu wrote, "All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved." Sun Tzu illustrates that while tactics are more concrete and easier to see, an overarching strategy is equally important. The question should not be strategy vs. tactics, but strategy and tactics. Think of these two techniques as two different sides of the same coin—both are necessary to achieve your goals. 

If someone is trying to reach their goals solely with strategy, they won't get anywhere since tactics are the concrete action items that take you where you need to go. When a team only uses strategy, the only thing that they'll be doing is planning to achieve goals instead of doing the work that needs to be done to achieve them. 

On the other hand, you can't achieve your business goals on tactics alone. Tactics without strategy quickly turns into aimless work. When this is the case, people are just taking arbitrary actions with no strategic objective in place. In the short term, this can feel like busywork for team members. In the long term, it can lead to frustration, burnout , and job dissatisfaction. 

What makes a good strategy?

Data-informed decisions.

A good strategy is well thought out, planned, and extremely well researched. If you're looking to build a strong, long-term strategy, it's important to gather information and data from past experiences to influence your future data-driven decision making process. 

For example, some industries experience seasonality with their business. Knowing how to use that seasonality to your advantage is an example of good strategic thinking and using historical data to your benefit. 

Clearly defined goals

The best strategies are built around clearly defined goals. It's much easier to build a good strategy when you know exactly what you need to achieve. Having clearly defined goals is a key part of the overall planning process for long-term strategy. Some people plan both their strategy and their business goals at the same time, which can streamline the process. But if there's no end goal, trying to create your strategy is like trying to run a race without knowing the route.

Contingency plans

The success of your strategy is contingent on an expected outcome, but what happens when your strategy gets derailed? This is where a contingency plan comes in. If you build a contingency plan into your strategy, then you can plan for speed bumps. Your team will know what to do to get over the speed bump to prevent the project from getting completely derailed. 

What makes good tactics?

Tactics are short term.

If the strategy is the long-term plan, tactics are the short-term steps that help you hit smaller goals. Tactical planning is the act of breaking down your strategic plan into short-term actions.

Tactics are clearly tied to strategy

If you’re struggling to understand how a specific tactic contributes to your strategy, it might not be the best tactic for your strategy. The work you do should actively contribute to the goals that you want to achieve.

The goal-setting framework OKRs is a good example of how short-term tactics connect to a long-term vision. There is one main objective, and there are key results that you set to achieve that main objective. The tactics that people work on regularly contribute to the growth of the key result.

Tactics are actionable and time-bound

Tactics are best executed in a limited time frame. Similar to most goal-setting strategies, creating time-bound deadlines ensures that tactics are actually completed within a set time frame. If you’re not sure how to create actionable and time-bound tactics, try using the SMART goal methodology.

Examples of business strategy and tactics

Here are a few examples of how business strategists can use both good strategy and smart tactics to achieve their business goals.

People team

Strategy: Interview 20% more candidates from historically underrepresented communities in tech.


Sponsor historically underrepresented community groups that focus on STEM.

Create opportunities for students with alternative education paths, such as bootcamps and trade schools.

Regularly share job listings on platforms that target under represented communities.

Digital marketing team

Strategy: Increase trial sign ups by 30%

Increase visibility on web pages by adding a free trial pop-up at 50% scroll.

Offer a free e-book with every trial sign up offer.

Promote trial sign ups through social media marketing.

Web development team

Strategy : Decrease page speed by 1 second.

Identify excess code that is affecting page speed and find streamlined alternatives.

Compress on-page images to less than 1 MB.

Reduce the number of page redirects.

Manage strategy and tactics using work management tools

Good strategy starts with organized planning. If you're looking for a way to keep your business goals organized, consider using a work management tool . Work management software can help connect your day-to-day tactics to long-term strategy. 

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The word strategy refers to your big-picture goal—what you are trying to accomplish. The word tactics refers to specific actions you will take to achieve your goal. When you solve a problem or tackle a project, you need to plan both strategically and tactically.

Using a Planning Sheet

A planning sheet like the one below can help you define your strategic and tactical plans.

Start by naming the issue you are addressing. Then write an overall goal , which identifies the problem and your solution. You'll also create objectives by answering the 5 W’s and H about your solution. That's your strategic plan.

Afterward, you shift to tactical planning by considering the 4 T’s : tasks, time, team, and tools. When you finish your planning sheet, you'll have a much clearer sense of how to achieve your goal.

Planning Sheet ( Google Doc )

Update Quarterly Product Catalog

We will revise our catalog to create a magazine-like feel, with feature stories that will engage our customers and a voice and design that better represent our brand.

This plan involves marketing, sales, editorial, and the president as well as our broad customer base.

Applying Your Plan

Simply completing a planning sheet helps you clarify your thinking, but your plan can also guide you throughout the process of creating your solution.

Road Map: Your planning keeps your eyes on your destination and the way you plan to get there.

Team Builder: A clear plan helps you get your team focused on the same goal and helps you delegate tasks.

Schedule: The tactical half of your plan helps you coordinate teams to complete tasks at the right time.

Benchmark: Your goal and objectives let you evaluate progress at all stages of the process.

Planning Sheet

© 2023 Thoughtful Learning. Copying and distributing this content is prohibited without written permission.

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Strategic vs Tactical Planning: How Are They Different?

by NASP Team

Whether we’re talking about your business or personal goals, planning proves to be essential to success. It sets the general direction that we have to take. This gives us a roadmap of sorts by which we can assess our actions.

What you’ll usually hear about planning is strategic vs tactical planning . They’re both seen as necessary when it comes to attaining business or personal progress.

But to best utilize these, it’s important to know how they differ. We’ll talk about their differences in detail in this post.

strategic planning vs tactical planning

Strategic Planning vs Tactical Planning: A Definition

Differences between Tactics and Strategy

The main difference between the two is the timeline. While a strategic plan is considered long-term, a tactical plan is short-term. To get a deeper view of their differences, let’s look into the definitions:

A strategic plan is connected to an organization’s vision and mission statements. Therefore, it’s far broader and normally used by top management to determine the goals for their respective departments. Most importantly, it’s a prerequisite to a tactical plan.

A tactical plan is a more fleshed-out version of the strategic plan. It creates specific action goals based on the strategic plan so you can fulfill them.

The Difference Between Strategic and Tactical Plan Creation

Because the goals and purpose of each plan are different, how you can create either will differ as well. Remember how we talked about how you need a strategic plan to create a good tactical plan?

We’ll walk you through the general plan creation process so you can see how it works.

Note that we have vastly simplified the process here. Planning is so much more than just listing things. There’s a lot of assessment, consultation, and discussion involved before anything can be finalized. But for both, there must be regular monitoring and evaluation. See the difference between the two below:

The Strategic Planning Process

Get started with strategic planning by following these steps:

The Tactical Planning Process

Now that you have your strategic plan, you can now proceed to make the tactical plan:

Strategic vs Tactical Planning: Examples

The biggest misconception that people have about both strategic and tactical planning is that it only applies to business. But the truth is, you’re probably doing it for yourself already and haven’t even realized it.

The only qualification that must be met is that there’s a goal upon which you’re basing your plans. 

In this section, we’ll show you that the output of these planning processes can look like many things. But for brevity, we’ll only include one “step” of the strategic plan instead of the whole thing.

We review an example of tactical planning and strategic planning at different scales below.

College Student

Our fictional college student is studying because they believe that education is important to leading a good life. But what does a good life mean to them? Here’s their attempt to map out the next few years of their journey. 

Strategy: I want to get a good job in my field of study within the next five years.

Small Startup

John Doe recently created a startup based on booming digital software. His goal is quick profitability, so he’s now looking at options on how to make that happen.

Strategy: I want to get my startup big and relevant enough to be acquired within the next four years.

Digital Infrastructure

A multinational company is faced with new competition that heavily invests in online marketing. This has caused their stocks to drop as the interest in the competition continues to grow:

Strategy: We want to build a more expansive digital infrastructure that will match that of the competition.

Which Is More Important, a Strategic vs Tactical Plan ?

Whether you’re using it for personal or business growth, the strategic and tactical plans coexist to be fully effective. Therefore, we can’t say that one is better than the other.

But in terms of when you can create one, the strategic plan will go first. As it will be the basis of your tactical plan, you want to clearly define your broader goals before going to more specific ones.

If we had to choose which was more important, it would depend on what was most relevant to your job description.

For example, a CEO would see more value in the strategic plan, while the head of the marketing department may find the tactical plan more useful.

Tactical vs Strategic Planning: Different, But Essential Tools for Progress

It’s the peanut butter and jelly of the business world: one isn’t just as good without the other. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with the value of the good old PB&J,  it demonstrates how two things can complement each other.

We understand how decision-makers want to go straight to knowing about the specifics without setting general directions. But what is tactical planning in business without any appreciation of its strategic counterpart?

However, now that we’ve thoroughly discussed both, let’s do it the right way, shall we? That way, you can maximize the yield from your team’s efforts in your organization.

strategic vs tactical business plans

About the author

Strategic & Tactical Planning in a Business

Different Strategic Management Models

Marketing strategy & structure, importance of sales management.

For a small business to grow successfully, the company must have a clearly articulated business plan. This plan will include a strategy that outlines it offerings, competitive landscape, differentiators and distribution model. Once a strategy is determined the company must develop a tactical plan that describes the specific actions the company intends to take in implementing the strategy. Together, the strategy and tactical plan form the foundation upon which a company can succeed.

A company needs to clearly articulate exactly what it intends to sell. Whether the organization intends to manufacture a product, offer a service or distribute a variety of goods using an online store or retail outlet, the offering needs to be easily explained and precisely defined. Many companies get into difficulty by trying to offer too many products or one that is not easily explained to prospective customers.


A key aspect of any business strategy is developing a clear understanding of the organization's main competitors. This analysis should uncover the primary competitors as well as secondary threats. An electronic retailer might list companies, such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart, as their primary competitors and identify Amazon.com and Costco as secondary competitors. Only by understanding a competitor's strengths and weaknesses can a company determine the best way to compete against them.

Features and Benefits

Every company must be able to clearly articulate why a customer will choose them, rather than its competitors. A manufacturer may provide a better, cheaper or faster product. A service company might be staffed with better educated, more experienced or more creative professionals. Using your knowledge of your competition, develop a set of strengths that play off their weaknesses. Ensure that your primary selling features can be clearly articulated and understood.


Decide how your company will sell its products. Some companies use in-house sales representatives to call on prospects or hire an out-bound call-center to develop leads. Others may use channel partners, such as retail stores, online resellers, brokers or product manufacturers, to distribute and sell the product. Many companies use a combination of several distribution models. It is important for this decision to be made on a strategic level before exclusive or semi-exclusive distribution agreements are signed.

Tactical Execution

Once the strategy is outlined, with a full understanding of what is being sold, competitors are identified, your features and benefits determined and distribution channels identified, a tactical plan can be developed. If a manufactured product is sold in online stores, a tactical plan that included a small sales staff, lots of online advertisements and an efficient logistics department would be in order. Similarly, if a consulting practice is selling software for accountants, the tactical plan might include sales staff with accounting backgrounds, sponsorship of accounting conferences and an army of consultants, business analysts and programmers to support the sale. Tactics focus on delivering a strategy using practical, real-world skills.

Divide Tactics

Many companies find it beneficial to divide tactics into operational clusters. The design and delivery of the offering will be assigned to a core group of staff, while advertising and sales could be assigned to a business development group. Each department or division decides how their group will execute the strategy, overseen by senior management. With each department aligning their efforts with the strategy, they can focus on a clearly articulated goal.

Chris MacKechnie is a graduate of Carleton University's Law Program and has been writing professionally for more than a decade. He is a regular contributor for a number of travel and business magazines and marketing websites, including "OutPost Magazine," "Report on Business" and several insurance trade publications. MacKechnie also writes extensively for several Fortune 500 companies located around the globe.

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