Strategy and tactics – a delicate balance

Although they would never use these labels, many large companies have a tendency to place employees in one of two categories: thinkers and doers.

The thinkers are generally at a more senior level in the hierarchy. They concentrate on strategy – looking at the big picture, developing goals (and looking for threats to achieving those goals), determining the overarching plan and making any decision required to move that plan forward. The doers concentrate on tactics – identifying and implementing specific, measurable steps to help the company achieve the goal. It’s a defensible approach: In theory, junior-level employees don’t have the experience or business acumen needed to develop more sophisticated strategies; senior-level employees do.

A delicate balance exists between the strategic and the tactical. Strategy without effective tactics won’t be successful; tactics without effective strategy are meaningless.

A delicate balance exists between the strategic and the tactical. Strategy without effective tactics won’t be successful; tactics without effective strategy are meaningless. Yet, just like the companies where they reside, many communications departments fail to see that delicate balance in their own functions.

“Line of sight” is a term used to describe the individual’s ability to see how his or her work aligns with the achievement of the overall goals of the organization. It’s true at a macro level, and it can be true at a micro level as well: Without insight into the bigger picture, it’s difficult for the tacticians to see how they support strategy. It’s true of junior-level employees supporting company strategy as well as for junior-level practitioners supporting communications strategy.

One of the few advantages of the tough economy is that, in being forced to do more with less, the lines between thinkers and doers are blurring. Team members who embody both capabilities are becoming the rule rather than the exception. The situation offers great professional development opportunities for junior staff, and it provides great feedback for senior leaders. It also supports everyone’s better understanding of how “line of sight” pertains to his or her work.

To take advantage of this opportunity, communications leaders can make a habit of engaging in the “strategy versus tactics” discussion and encourage other execs to do so as well. A surprising number of executives never think beyond strategy, as if possession is the equivalent of execution. Discussing the tactics will keep your strategy grounded in reality.

Conversely, including your tacticians in the discussion of strategy will not only sharpen their skills, but also might lead you to some surprising insights. In my experience, the most successful communications projects have been improved in the earliest planning stages by reviewing the plans and brainstorming with the entire team. It’s a conversation that helps everyone gain insight into the big picture as well as the details. It builds teamwork and shared understanding, and it helps all of us – strategists and tacticians alike – see how we can contribute to achieving the goals.



© 2017 Betty Henry Communications