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Strategy vs. Tactics

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Today someone pointed out to me the not-so-subtle  difference between “Strategy” and “Tactics”—which I found to be very interesting and insightful. That impassioned explanation has set me thinking about a number of things that I do in the framework of “Vision, Strategy, and Tactics.” This post is just my notes, mostly put here for myself.









Strategy is a big-picture perspective of a problem and a rather comprehensive and encompassing view of what it would take to realize our vision over time. Vision is the place where we are heading to in the long term. Tactics, on the other hand, is the set of actions or steps that we take in order to follow the strategy. In the absence of vision, there cannot be a strategy; in the absence of a strategy, there cannot be any coherent tactics.

Tactics is well defined, specific, and sequential for implementing the over-arching strategy. It can vary over time, with circumstances, and in face of adversity or blocking issues; it is adaptive; it is purposeful; and it is collective. Strategy is rather immutable (but not rigid); if well thought out, it does not change either in face of unpopular or popular trends.

The more team members are involved in framing the vision and strategy, the better their definitions and execution are likely to be. It is important that the tacticians—the members who implement, execute, and deploy the sequence of tactical maneuvers—buy into the strategy and are passionate about the vision. They should understand what the strategy is and how their short-term actions align with and enable the long-term strategy.

The long-term objectives of strategy need the means that will help in attaining those objectives. No strategy can be better than its tactical implementation or execution. While strategy refers to the “what and why,” tactics refers to the “how.”

Strategic thinking requires the ability to look at the “big picture”—recognize the competitive landscape and patterns, establish priorities, anticipate issues, predict outcomes, and have alternatives in place should the necessity arise. Tactical is the “hands on” or the “doing it” part of getting the job done to ensure that the strategy works well.

Tactical interaction between two organizations is well-defined and specific, and also bound by certain rules of business engagement. The tactical actions are well understood, and the outcome of actions is clear and can be easily observed; the outcome can be predicted using tools such as game theory. Strategic interaction between two organizations is complex, and defines the rules of business engagement. The outcome of strategic interaction cannot be modeled or predicted based on the strategy itself—the outcome is always measured as payoffs of tactical interactions. However, in the absence of a well-planned strategy in place, the tactical interactions can neither be effective nor result in desired outcomes.

Are you strategic or tactical?


Rita Gunther McGarth and Ian C. Macmillan. MarketBusters: 40 Strategic Moves that Drive Exceptional Business Growth. Harvard Business Press. 2005.

Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble. Strategic Innovation and the Science of Learning. MIT Sloan Management Review. Winter 2004.


Written by Pragyan Mishra

October 18, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Five Actions of Leadership

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I often wonder what it takes to lead. What are the actions of great leaders? What do great leaders do on a daily basis to influence themselves and others in a positive way? I am referring to ‘actions’ as opposed to traits, characteristics, or ‘acts’ of leadership. I believe ‘actions’ instill the core of leadership and therefore, are the cause while ‘acts’ the effect.

Classes, seminars, talks, and training sessions on leadership that I have come across focus primarily on what it takes to be a good manager and not a solid leader. Most leadership gurus that I have encountered so far confuse the term `leader’ with that of `manager’. You can become a good manager by sufficient training and developing proper soft skills. You become a good leader by focusing on a few deep and intrinsic values and facing adversity and circumstances that put those values to test. Only life experiences can train you on how to lead. There are no books, blogs (including this one), talks, or training that can infuse you with leadership; they can infuse you with hope and motivation, however.

I did not come up with some 4 P’s, 5 C’s, or an acronym of actions, primarily because I am still developing the poetic skills of a rapper. Instead, I have identified five simple (or not-so-simple) actions that I can incorporate into my daily routine to help me develop the core of a steadfast leader.

Introspect – Look within to find your strengths and live with purpose. Inquire and think deep.

Energize – Motivate and excite yourself and people around you. Be positive. Inspire by example.

Connect – Build a strong sense of community and camaraderie. Communicate and relate.

Envision – Have a vision for the future. Imagine, dream, and aspire.

Pursue – Seek truth, knowledge, and insight. Learn and understand new ideas and paradigms.











In the process of thinking of these actions I realized that each action feeds another; there is a cycle of positive feedback within these five actions. This feedback works well because each action re-enforces another and over time these actions can only become habits.

When you identify your inner strengths, you are excited about yourself and your purpose in life. This positivity and energy permeates through people around you. You inspire by example and motivate people to find their own purpose and strengths. This, in turn, helps you connect with others; you succeed in forming a community through camaraderie and communication. You envision a future that is much greater than your own self and your personal aspirations. Your dreams when realized will perhaps leave footprints much bigger than those of your own feet in the sands of time.  In pursuing your dreams, you are able to open up your mind to new ideas and paradigms. Your quest for innate and intrinsic values–either in your own or new ideas, either through your own or new paradigms–helps you to seek more knowledge and insight into things. You enjoy the process of learning and applying new concepts and knowledge to solve problems. Some of the best solutions to complex problems, as I have found, are simple, in fact, extremely simple.  Pursing insight, knowledge, and the best solutions forces you to think deep and hard. You often end up looking into yourself to find your strengths and purpose; it is back to the action of honest introspection and self-realization. The actions complete a full circle, and this is what I mean by positive feedback of the five actions.

Only time and circumstances will test the efficacy of these actions.

What are your actions?

Written by Pragyan Mishra

August 28, 2010 at 12:33 am

Posted in Leadership