The terms strategy and tactics are synonymous with military leadership and warfare. But they are also terms adopted in the business world and are linked to vision casting and planning. All leaders use strategies and tactics even if they don’t refer to them by name. The vision dictates both the strategy and the tactics. It is common for a lot of people to use both terms interchangeably because they are quite similar, however, they are very different.
Strategy originates from the Greek word strategos which mean the office of a general or leader of an army while tactic is from the Greek word taktika which means matters pertaining to arrangement or organization.
I love the analogy that Christopher Penn, a blogger, used to illustrate the subtle differences between vision, strategy and tactics. His analogy requires you to imagine that you are going on a road trip. Vision tells you both where you are going and the why you are going on the road trip in the first place. Hence, without a reasonable ‘why’, the trip is both pointless and meaningless.
Strategy is all about knowing what to do in order to get to where you want to go. This entails knowing the destination and the direction. Without strategy, you will end up driving around in circles and this is a waste of your time and energy. The strategy must always be in alignment with the vision and it is forward-looking.
Tactic requires you to know how to get to your destination. Thus, strategy has to do with planning the vision and tactic is all about the execution of the plan (strategy). Tactics are like routes that help you get to your destination. A strategy consists of numerous tactics which are the steps or goals leading to the actualization of the strategy and the fulfilment of the vision. Tactic is present or now-oriented. The things you do today that help you get to where you are going.
Andy Stanley gave this great advice to an audience of church leaders. He said “be stubborn with your vision but be flexible with your plans” (strategies and tactics). Strategies and tactics change but the vision tends to remains the same. The vision should be written in ink but the strategies and tactics are better written in pencil. A leader needs to be both a strategist and a tactician in the pursuit of fulfilling his or her vision.