Well, I go along with Craig to an extent, but I guess I come at it from a slightly different perspective.
To me, the strategic level is best defined as what you are, and tactical is how you behave. This goes hand in hand with the military adage that strategy is what you do when you are NOT in contact with the enemy. Tactics - you are engaged with the enemy.
Lets take the human being. The human being is a chaos machine that has some fairly significant ability to define itself - physically, emotionally (emotional management), spiritually, and cognitively. The set of world views and mental maps that you have developed, through education, and experience define you in many ways. How you comprehend the world, what your level of understanding of other people is, how you organize information to extract meaning and wisdom... How well you learn, and from what media and sources, is a major component of who you are.
Tactics are how you behave when confronted with a situation - what actions you take, what decisions you are likely to reach, what words you use.
Here`s the thing. Tactics are governed by strategy. Having adopted a strategy to be very very big, means that one is unlikely to successfully execute ballet steps, hide under the sofa, or escape through a crack in the wall. That is why elephants rarely do the two-step.
Adopting a strategy means taking those steps that define the range of tactics that your business CAN adopt, and your likelihood of successful executing those tactics. Designing a strategy means assessing what you currently are, what tactics you see as valuable options over a given time span, and re-designing yourself to bring those tactical capabilities into your organization. It is very difficult to do this when you are already engaged with the competition. That is why these steps are taken when you are NOT engaged - before the engagement. If not, it is likely to be too late.
Let`s say your business model for selling your software is reliant on distribution through schools to create familiarity and pre-disposition to use your product amongst graduates. You offer a very strong product that is complementary with and supported by the back-of the-house offerings that large organizations want - say a development platform, a database product, and a web server. Your strategy is creating assets that make infiltrating education sector. you have a board member who is an ex-secretary of Education. You have a product designer who holds a PHD in learning. Your tactic might be predatory pricing and bundled selling.
You decide that it is unnecessary to have quality sources of competitive information amongst those strange whack-a-loons who write code in their basements in their underwear. I mean, come on, they cannot be taken seriously - this is a multi-billion dollar business here, that is global in scope. So you do NOT have a strategic element for war gaming using competitive intelligence that includes non-commercial entrants.
One day you wake up, and you are not only the target of a anti-monopoly action, but you are also under pressure to conform to open standards. Why is that? Well seems those strange people have written a FREE product that offers much the same functionality as your product, and also inter-operates with your file structures. Suddenly, your strategic plan has left you in a position where your tactic of predatory pricing is simply not viable. How do you ruthlessly price out of existence someone`s FREE product?
Even worse, your strategy of implementing through school channels has been undercut. Your technical and support and sales staff, all tied into that channel, cannot convince the local school board to pay money for a product that they can get for free.
Strategy - define what you are, and constantly re-invent yourself.
Tactics - the range of behaviors that you can successfully deploy.
for what its worth...
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