The common view about strategy is that of setting the high objectives of an initiative or an organization. The strategy of an organization dictates the direction of all activities. Tactic, on the other hand, are the chosen types of activities needed to achieve the objectives – to implement the strategy.
This looks clear but let’s examine our understanding on a specific case, a “for profit” organization example. The main objective of that organization is, “To make money now as well as in the future”. According to the above definition this high objective is the strategy of the organization. Can we say that everything that is needed in order to achieve this objective could be considered as Tactic?
The answer must be “No” if we consider that strategy is suppose to set clear direction – just stating the highest objective is far from being enough. Its no wonder that what is commonly done is to call a strategy also some additional objectives that are deemed as prerequisites for the achievement of the highest objective. In our example, we consider as strategy also objectives such as: “High customer satisfaction” and “Being the low cost provider”. These objectives are still too broad to constitute a well-devised strategy. Companies continue to better specify their strategy by devising more and more specific objectives, like: “Making quality Job One”; “Basing operations in third-world countries” etc.. These more specific objectives are considered as prerequisites for the attainment of the higher objectives.
What we now realize is that strategy is not just a statement or a collection of statements but it has a hierarchical structure. There are several levels of strategy connected by necessary conditions – objectives from a lower level are prerequisites for objectives in a higher level. We expect that higher objectives will be generic in type, while objectives from lower levels will tend to be more and more specific.
Yet, this approach raises a problem. Aren’t the more specific objectives what we are calling Tactics?
Tactics determine how we achieve the higher objectives. When we “dive” down the levels of strategy, eventually we will wonder where do we stop dealing with Strategy and start to devise the Tactics. Where do we draw the line that separates the Strategy from the Tactics?