In my observation one big confusion that prevails in many organisations and amongst it people, is to be able to clearly understand and distinguish between “Strategic Work” Vs “Tactical Work” in their roles.
It’s my view organisations and their leadership teams, if are strategically capable and execution focused, they tend to succeed more than their peers. This can be achieved by building a clear understanding of strategic work Vs tactical work in employees roles.
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~ Sun Tzu
In the last one and half years, I interviewed more than 150 bright and talented people across mid to senior levels, I found that more than 90% of those people demanded and aspired for more strategic work in their roles. When I asked them to describe what does strategic work Vs tactical work means to them – I realised how the understanding varies with every individual. About a year ago, I started to maintain notes and began researching and analysing my qualitative data points of each and every interview. Will share some of my insights and thoughts in this blog post.
In her article featured in Forbes Magazine in 2018, Bhavana Dalal, very nicely explains, “What does it mean to be tactical? Tactics refer to the skill of dealing with or handling difficult situations, to achieve a specific goal. On the other hand, a strategy is defined as a comprehensive high-level, long-term plan. Being tactical focuses on tasks, concrete smaller steps, best practices, specific procedures, and resources. Meanwhile, a strategy is tied to purpose, goals, and vision.”
As per my learning and understanding, strategic work involves creating a long term plan for a organisation and working on high level strategic things such as Vision, Mission, Purpose of the organisation. Defining key focus areas, objectives and goals for the organisation and its key people. Being able to design and successfully build brands, processes, culture, technology platforms and talent pipeline and a operating model for the firm also falls in the area of strategic work. On the other hand performing tasks to deliver and execute your strategy is tactical work. In addition, tasks such as responding to a crisis, managing a difficult situation involving customers, employees, suppliers, unions are examples of tactical work. In simple terms, building strategies, plans, objectives for higher value creation for the organisation and it’s stakeholders is strategic work, most other things is tactical work.
All roles of an organisation, cutting across levels will always have a mix of strategic and tactical work. What’s important to note is that as a rule of thumb, senior level employees should have 90% of strategic work and 10% of tactical work as a mix in their roles, responsibilities, objectives and deliverables. Middle level should be 50/50 and lower level of employees in the Org chart should have 90% of tactical and 10% of strategic work built into theirs.
In conclusion, I say, “The CHROs should take it upon themselves to socialise this thinking and approach in their organisation and design and build processes and a culture which will become a value creator.”
In case you are interested to learn more about this. Related articles that, I suggest you read are as follows:
1) https://nesslabs.com/why-most-strategies-fail 2) https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2015/05/17/whats-the-difference-between-strategy-and-tactics/?sh=237ecca57103. 3) https://www.forbesindia.com/blog/business-strategy/the-difference-between-tactics-and-strategy/. 4) https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/five-fifty-strategy-vs-execution
You are spot on. I too have forever been hearing the same thing from the candidates. The fact that they wanted more strategic roles but on further probe could hardly explain what they meant by strategic work. It is time we take it on ourselves to socialise on how this pans out in organisations and that it is not at all shameful to be tactical as that is key to a flawless execution of a strategy.
Contrast is very clear
The beauty of this blog is, in simple terms you have infact triggered two very important but notched aspects of a big organisation. I do agree the %age allocation factored here, are seemingly performed by many but with this, they can be more realistic & quantified. Many thanks for sharing such wonderful read & looking forward for many more from the veteran.
Hi Yash , This is one of the best reads on how to differentiate between being tactical vs strategic . The best part is the element of simplicity with which this has been woven . Thanks for sharing ….
Regards Rohit Sharma
It’s so insightful blog, have got absolute clarity on the difference between Strategic vs Tactical work. So well articulated.