Tactical vs. Strategic Thinking in Your Business: What's the Difference and How to Use Both

Tactical vs. Strategic Thinking in Your Business: What's the Difference and How to Use Both

You’ve heard the terms “tactical thinking” and “strategic thinking” thrown around in talks on leadership and business, but what exactly do they mean? What’s the difference? And how can YOU apply them to your business?

Let’s start with tactical thinking…

What is Tactical Thinking?

Tactical thinking focuses on the how and when something will be done. Those who think this way are asking themselves, “What are the steps I need to take to get this job done?” And, “What is the easiest way for me to get this job done right now?” The steps are also known as tactics or initiatives and often involve best practices, specific plans, and resources. 

What is Strategic Thinking?

On the other hand, strategic thinking focuses on the what and why—what needs to be done and why should it be done. When you think strategically, you are thinking with an overall vision or end-goal in mind. Strategic thinkers are constantly looking for the best way to get the job done quickly and efficiently. 

Compare and Contrast Tactical vs. Strategic Thinking

It is fairly common for people to speak about strategy and tactics as if they are the same thing. Strategy and tactics do rely heavily on one another; however, the terms should not be used interchangeably. Tactical thinking focuses on the small, concrete steps taken to reach an immediate goal, whereas strategic thinking defines long-term goals and how you will achieve them. 

How to Use Tactical and Strategic Thinking in Your Business

Businesses that operate by performing multiple tactics without a strategy to achieve their goals, either fail or take a long time to reach their goal, without any idea regarding what worked and what didn’t. This prevents those businesses from learning, understanding their failures and designing better tactics moving forward. This is why it is so important to employ strategic thinking BEFORE tactical thinking. Every tactic should be backed by strategy.

Prior to implementing your strategy, ensure that you have stakeholder buy-in and that you have addressed all questions and concerns. Once you are ready to implement the strategy, communicate it across your entire business and provide meaning and context related to each department. It is essential that everyone understands your strategy and that each member of your team knows how the tactics they are working on contribute to the overall strategy.

No business environment is static—which was especially evident when COVID-19 caught us all off guard. Therefore, it is important to periodically review and evaluate your strategy so that you can adapt to any changes, adjust your tactics, and remain on track.

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