Strategy, Tactics, and Operations

Strategy is the „art of the general“. Strategy is not a plan. It is input to the plan.

The plan of what to do is formulated in the tactics. Tactics makes the strategy tangible. The plan is nice, but the only reason for planning is planning. The plan does not lead to a product.

What brings the tactics to real life is operations/execution. Operations is the real doing. Operations generates value. Nothing else generates value.

It is the job of our upper leader figures to develop a strategy. It is perfectly fine when they have little clue about how to apply the strategy to operations. There are nice examples from the field (no names here…), where a strategy team tries to convey the strategy to the workforce. It does not connect. You tell the nice strategy to the execution layer and everybody is left completely unmotivated. Have you experienced that?

The missing link is the tactics. Tactics is develop by our middle layer of leaders moderating between the big guys with the strategic pictures and the guys actually generating the value for the company. The tactics guys give objectives to operations. They never tell operations how to do the job. They give orientation by telling what to do based on the strategy.

There is a strong connection to the three horizons. Strategy you do not develop with daily changes. It may adapt, but it should not change on a monthly basis. Traumatic events may cause a disruptive change in strategy. This should however not happen frequently. Updating and adapting strategy one a year should be sufficient. The tactics is more granular. Quarterly reviews and up-dates are necessary to fine tune to the environment. Daily operations needs to react on a daily basis. Here we are not talking about daily task switching, this is something different.

In the same concept of thought we need to respect local information. There is guidance and orientation from strategy via tactics to operations, while there is feedback from operations via tactics to the strategy level. Layers need to be aligned, each layer however needs to be able to make local decision that require local information. With the typical exceptions of long lasting decisions, decisions with high economical impact etc. etc.

Investment Horizons, the Three Horizon Model and the distinction between Strategy, Tactics and Operations are closely linked.