Goals, Strategies, TacticsIn facilitating training, I have often noticed difficulty among some participants in distinguishing between goals and strategies. There is also a common tendency to mistake tactics for strategies.
The definitions of these three concepts goals, strategies, and tactics are reasonably straightforward, so the problem is more one of going too fast in putting together a plan for moving a business forward. The necessary distinctions get lost in the rush to take action.
For example, in a simulation for newspaper managers, when I ask the team I'm facilitating what their strategy is, I'll often be told something like:
We're going to focus on rebuilding circulation.Until the team comes up with a concrete approach to rebuilding circulation, this statement is more an aspiration a goal than a strategy.
Another common response to my question about strategy is along these lines:
We're going to provide more local coverage, do more zoning, and add new products for segments like young adults.Again, at best a strategy is implied by these planned steps, which are actually in the realm of tactics.
An honest-to-goodness strategy is an approach to achieving organization goals that specifies what you are depending on to make your goals a reality. For example, a newspaper's strategy for increasing its long-term profitability might be to provide content of interest to all age groups, and to integrate its print and online operations in order to deliver content through whatever channel a particular reader prefers, while simultaneously controlling costs.
Tactics for executing this strategy might include additional coverage of local entertainment options for teens and young adults, equipping reporters with still and video camera equipment so they can do some of their own photography, and including a link to additional features at the end of most articles in the print paper.
The key point for trainers is to be alert to opportunities during team discussions for opportunities to reinforce the important distinctions among the concepts of goals, strategies, and tactics.