Strategy or Tactics: Big Picture or Day-to-Day Focus

A constant conflict in many businesses is the struggle between investing in long-term strategic planning to grow the business and executing short-term tactical activities to meet company objectives and customer needs.  Feeding one and starving the other can result in not enough forward thinking or lack of focus and commitment to operational objectives.

Successful businesses master the balance of these two important business issues. How?

  • Strategic thinking is emphasized throughout the business.
  • Development of management skills in:
    • Vision and planning
    • Tactical execution
  • Performance measurement of the implications of both long and short-term decisions.
  • Communicating the strategic plan to all levels of the business.

Effective harmony and balance between being strategic and tactical does not happen by itself.  Conscientious effort from the executive level on down is needed to create a positive environment that embraces and rewards the time and energy devoted to looking long term while at the same time maintaining a sharp focus on daily operations to meet period-to-period business objectives.

Strategic Thinking
For strategic planning to be successful it must be emphasized throughout the organization.  The time and attention invested at the executive level to strategic thinking should greatly exceed that at lower levels.  However, it is important for the organization at every level, to look forward and have an appreciation for factors (internal and/or external) that will affect the company.Equipping operational levels to think strategically takes advantage of company knowledge of middle and first line operations that would not enter the strategic process if strategic planning occurred just at the executive level.  Exercising higher-level strategies with lower level operations will result in strategies that are hardened to reflect company wide input and the realities of front line experience ranging from the manufacturing process, back office operations, or out in the field (sales channel, call service center, online order/delivery) where primary customer contact occurs.
Management Skills
Management skills need to be honed to a higher level.  Leaders and managers need to be effective operating at the vision/planning level and at the same time possess tactical execution skills necessary to effectively guide and direct detail day-to-day operations.  This is not something that can be expected to occur randomly but is the result of an intentional management culture reinforced at each management level.Where possible these traits are sought when people are recruited or promoted into management/supervisory positions.  Institutionalized training (in-house or through accredited training sources) in key elements of vision, planning and tactical execution is used to develop and grow the skill set of the management group.
Performance Measurement
Key to any process is performance measurement. It is invaluable to capture the results of decision outcomes for the purpose of not only basic accountability but to help all involved improve their accuracy and effectiveness in accomplishing long term strategic initiatives and to implement tactical initiatives to meet operational objectives.Regular reporting (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) of operational measurements and at a minimum quarterly review and adjustments to strategic initiatives are necessary to keep the management team accountable and short/long term objectives reasonable and achievable.
Communication
Successful strategic planning is based upon buy in from all parties involved.  Consequently communication is an important part of the process. This does not mean that it is a one-way communication path.  The most critical element in communication is listening to employees to determine if the message has been properly understood.Many communication plans fail because those hearing it either do not relate to it or do not believe that it will be carried out.  Therefore, the most critical part of an effective communication plan is how well the management team performs doing what they say.Good communicators walk the talk – consistently!

Summary
A positive byproduct of successfully balancing the relationship between strategy and tactical objectives is a business that is positioned to take advantage of opportunities and also deal with adversity.  The business is more agile in its ability to serve the changing needs of the customer because they are looking ahead to incorporate trends into their product and service offerings and constantly improving existing operations to provide high quality cost effective products to meet market demand.

Where does your company stand on this issue?  Are you as committed to strategic planning as you are to meeting your monthly revenue objective?  If not you are likely out of balance.

If you are not in balance reassess your priorities and bring your business back into balance.

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