Friday Rant: Strategy ≠ Tactics

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There’s too much talk about “strategy” followed by discussions of very tactical action items. Social posts, events, ad placements, etc. are NOT strategy. Strategy is the “what” – the high level plan for achieving an objective. Tactics are the tools and specific actions we use to execute a strategy and (hopefully) achieve an objective – the “how.” I’ve encountered this confusion in every workplace I’ve been in among high-school-aged interns and MBAs alike.

This isn’t just semantics. The distinction matters because oftentimes when we misuse the word “strategy” to describe tactics it is a symptom of a complete lack of any strategic thinking whatsoever. Quick! What can we do? We need a plan! Lots of people will jump right into listing action items when faced with such urgency.

But we need to agree on the why. What is the objective? How will we measure it? Why are we doing this in the first place? When I see the word Strategy at the top of a slide I really, really want the content to engage with these kinds of questions. It often does not.

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