Strategy vs. Tactics

NOTE: This post is suggested by Sarah Arrow in BizSugar as a follow up in my post On Strategy: What exactly Strategy is and what it is not. Thank you Sarah!

Strategy and Tactics are common denominators in business, society, relationships, etc, signify the importance of these concepts in our everyday, short- and long-term activities.

Strategy vs. Tactics

Strategy vs. Tactics

Most of the times, these concepts are confused with the result most people to use them with very limited results. Sun Tzu, argues, that:

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The strategy is a resource and a tool, that, we, all, unanimously agreed, that should be used, more today, by people and organizations, for bringing better results. But it is not. And it is often confused with the tactics employed for achieving a certain situation. It seems that there is a tag war between strategy vs. tactics, leaving, always, short the strategy side of the equation.

Strategy: A working definition

The strategy is a complicated high-level scheme, aiming at achieving “one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty“.

But this is not all! Strategy, we have argued, due to its importance, should and must be defined, in a different, more tangible, way (even for a temporary base of reference). For this reason, we defined Strategy as:

A designed set of intentional activities, undertaken by a logical entity with a certain mindset, and organized within a scheme, which aims at achieving a measurable objective within a given scope of reference and time frame

This working definition may be proved more practical, for using strategy in a more broad spectrum of reference in our everyday activities. And this definition, has the extra advantage of clears up and sums up the concept of tactics (via its explicit reference in the concept of intentional activities).

Tactics: A Path Towards the Strategy’s Implementation

Before though we use, indirect reference on what tactics) is (or is not!!!) we should give a more clear frame of reference, in order to avoid the confusion between strategy and tactics.

Thus, we should define tactics (as we have defined strategy) in a practical way, that would help us in its habitual implementation and everyday usage.

Why? Because the employment of a specific and appropriate to a situation tactic may enhance the quality of our effort towards our strategic goals and facilitate our long-run objectives.

The basic elements of a tactic are:

  1. Aiming at the achieving of a measurable objective,
  2. Has specific time frame,
  3. It is intended and planned for achieving the intended result, and
  4. Has a specific course of action for achieving the required result

Strategy vs. Tactics

You would probably argue, that all the above 4 elements are similar the elements we have used to define strategy. And you would have right! So, what is going on? Strategy equals tactics (or, at least, a tactic) or not? The answer depends on the situation which it is applied.

Let’s straight up our concepts. I argue that strategy, looks like the tactic, but is not the same. Why?


  1. A strategy is an overall plan, a high-level concept on how a specific goal should be achieved (depended on vision of the company, the alliances and business associations a company may have formed and wish to maintain, the business, ethical, personal restrictions and limitations, the personal and corporate detachments, etc.), while a tactic is “a conceptual action implemented as one or more specific tasks“, a more specific set of actions you use for implementing the named strategy.
  2. The strategy includes one or more (>=1) tactics for achieving its goals, while a tactic can be implemented, even with one activity (mail to your assistance to schedule you a dinner at <…>, in <…>, etc.).
  3. Strategy deals with WHAT while tactics with the HOW, WHO, WHERE.
  4. Strategy focuses on planning while tactics focus on doing. That why is always dangerous to implement tactics without a strategy to back them up (they tend to become orphan actions[!!!], detached by a mainstream course of action and doing).
  5. The strategy spans in the long-range time spectrum while tactics dominate the short and middle term time spectrum.

Strategy vs. Tactics: A comparison

A small comparison of the above may prove useful, for clear up the things, discussed here:

Strategy Tactics
Approach High-Level plan Specific action
# of Actions >=1 tactics => 1
Content/Context What? How, Who, Where
Intended Activity Planning Doing
Duration Long-Term Short & middle Term

Strategy vs. Tactics: An example

Company Vision

To build new ways of flawless communication and create new channels for cultural interaction


Gain an extra 1% share in the mobiles market, via technology innovation and diversification of products that would provide a) an overall hype among young ages, b) a major market impact, c) introduce a new vocabulary in our society and a base of reference (viral marketing) and d) would constitute cultural memes [!] within 2 years.


  1. Enhance the R&D department by providing more resources and funds, for 6 months, enabling the output of a new line of mobile devices,
  2. Commission the design of the new mobile products to an established design User Interface and product authority,
  3. Prepare the Marketing for the new products (research, data collection, sector and clients segmentation, new prize policy with more “attractable” offerings, etc.)
  4. etc. …

Do you think, that this concept, would help you to clear up more the difference between strategy and tactics, or not? Do you need further explanations and examples for implementing such concepts, or not? Do you think it is easy to employ strategic decision in our life and design the required tactics for their implementation, or not? Please comment.


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    Takis Athanassiou is an IT Consultant, Blogger, Trainer & Writer, active in the areas of leadership, business consulting, e-Learning and social media. He aims at the development of people, business and assets! You can check out his blog, add him in Google+ and follow him on Twitter.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

    • Harry

      Takis – Excellent explanation. The way I always explain to my clients is this – strategy will tell you where you want to go. Tactics will show how.

    • Takis Athanassiou

      Thank you Harry for your kind comments. I like very much your explanation. Thank you for sharing!