Strategy and Tactics in Action

The follow on to our last Transmission – we explore the application and practice of strategic and tactical planning.

In the last Transmission, the concepts of strategy and tactics were discussed as the two necessary pieces of a bulletproof plan to success. This Transmission will describe how these concepts are applied in both a team and in an individual setting along with some suggestions for how one can maximize the effectiveness of each.

Team Setting

A team setting for purposes of this discussion implies that there are many people organized into some hierarchy to provide clear custody of responsibilities. By definition, the hierarchy will have higher and lower level members. As noted previously, the spectrum of responsibilities in strategic planning to tactical planning shifts from one to the other as one moves from the top of the hierarchy to the bottom – more on this later.

A large challenge to overcome in a team environment is the dispatch of information throughout each of the team members. Each team member must have an exposure to the larger strategy allowing each member to buy into the team’s mission as well as understand how their specific role feeds into the larger strategy of the team. This creates a sense of ownership and understanding amongst the team members and fosters collective strength in team values.

At the lowest levels of a team, there must be an expectation set of taking tactical action. These boots-on-the-ground members of the team are responsible for planning and executing their responsibilities as dictated by the larger team objectives. These members must be provided the latitude to make decisions to maximize efficiency and resource expenditure. To allow for success in these endeavors, these team members must be provided the understanding of how their decisions and actions will add or detract from the overall team mission which enforces the importance noted of each team member having exposure and visibility to the larger strategy at play.

Above the lowest-ranking team members are the tactical planners. These tacticians are responsible for putting the tactical plan together for their team and to disperse the specific tactical objectives to each of the subordinate team members. The responsibilities at this level are to bridge the gap between the strategy and the field conditions and to tie the tactical pursuits into the larger strategic pursuits. This level is responsible for overseeing and managing tactical resources both materially and in manpower.

At the highest level of the hierarchy, and subsequently the furthest removed from the tactics at the field level, are the strategic planners. The highest level of the hierarchy should refrain from dictating tactical approaches for that would violate the principles of decentralized command and result in sub-optimal tactical planning. This will not be due to lack of tactical abilities, but rather from lack of intimacy with field conditions and resources. It is not the job of strategists to think tactically. It is imperative that the strategic thinkers are thinking strategically while incorporating the feedback they are getting from their lower levels or field units.

Of course, this is an oversimplification for explanation of the concept and the success of a team depends on many other things. In the real world, a team will contend with disengaged members, personality clashes, etc.; however, I would posit that if a clear hierarchy and delegation of responsibilities is established and maintained early, engagement across the team will increase over the course of the mission.

For the Individual

As an individual, the same principles of strategy and tactics will apply toward a mission or goal; however, the application will look different. As there is no hierarchy to separate responsibilities, time intervals will serve to delineate the hierarchy described above.

As a single entity, the individual will be required to be both the strategic and tactical planner. Note; however, both roles cannot be filled at the same time for there are different goals to be met by each process. As described above, strategy comes to form in a general flow with a defined end goal. The boundaries and ground-rules are set within the strategy. The tactics are the specific moves that will carry the mission from one milestone to the next along the larger path of the strategy.

It is the time interval on which an individual plans tactically and strategically that will determine which form of reflection and pursuit one is working on at any given time. Strategy shall be set and reviewed on longer intervals in the magnitude of years where tactical planning is generally done on weekly and monthly intervals; depending on the overall scope and length of time of a particular mission.

This is shown in the construction of a 10 year goal. Such a goal will will be of significant enough scope that there will be intermediate milestones set to provide context and frame of reference for the rate of progress being made. Without such milestones, it will be more difficult to understand how one is tracking toward the larger goal.

Driving to these milestones will be the work of the individual tactics employed to address each challenge along the way. Without intermediate tactics, it will be hard to make a strategic plan that provides the flexibility to compensate for the conditions of life.

As a side note, if a 10 year plan does not require milestones and tactics, the goal is far too small in scope and the reader should ask themselves why this goal cannot be achieved in far less time.

Challenge yourself to pursue large goals both for yourself and with the teams you lead or influence. Commit to a goal that is just outside of your current comfort level, then put a plan together to crush it.

Yours in strength,

-Jersey

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