Distinction between Strategy and Tactics

1. Level of Conduct . As discussed earlier, strategy is developed at the highest level of management either at the headquarter or at major divisional offices and related exclusively to
decisions in the province of these levels. Tactics is employed at and relates to lower levels of management.

2. Periodicity. The formulation of strategy is both continuous and irregular. The process is continuous but the timing of decision is irregular as it depends on the appearance of opportunities, new ideas, crisis, management initiative, and other non-routine stimuli. Tactics is determined on a periodic basis by various organizations. A fixed timetable may be followed for this purpose, for example, preparation of budgets at regular intervals.

3. Time Horizon. Strategy has a long-term perspective; especially the successful strategies are followed for quite long periods. In occasional cases, it may have short-term duration. Thus, depending on the nature and requirement, its time horizon is flexible, however, emphasis is put on long-term. On the other hand, time horizon of tactics is short-run and definite. The duration is uniform, for example budget preparation.

4. Uncertainty. Element of uncertainty is higher in the case of strategy formulation and its implementation. In fact, strategic decisions are taken under the conditions of partial ignorance. Tactical decisions are more certain as these are taken within the framework set by the strategy. Thus, evaluation of tactics is easier as compared to evaluation of a strategy.

5. Information Needs. The total possible range of alternatives from which a manager can choose his strategic action is greater than tactics. A manager requires more information for arriving at strategic decision. Since an attempt is made to relate the organization to its environment, this requires information about the various aspects of environment. Naturally the collection of such information will be different. Tactical information is generated within the organization particularly from accounting procedures and statistical sources.

6. Subjective Values. The formulation of strategy is affected considerably by the personal values of the person involved in the process. For example, what should be the goals of an organization is affected considerably by the personal values of the persons concerned. On the other hand, tactics is normally free from such values because this is to be taken within the context of strategic decisions.

7. Importance. Strategies are most important factors of organization because they decide the future course of action for the organization as a whole. On the other hand, tactics are of less importance because they are concerned with specific part of the organization. This difference, though seems to be simple, becomes important from managerial action point of view.

8. Type of Personnel Involved in Formulation. Generally separate group of managerial personnel are involved in strategy and tactics formulation and their implementation. As discussed earlier, strategic decisions are never delegated below a certain level m the managerial hierarchy. The basic principle m this context is not to delegate below the levels than those possess the perspective required for most effective strategic decisions. Personnel at lower levels can take tactical decisions because these involve minute implementation of strategic decisions.

Though these differences between strategy and tactics are there, often the lines of demarcation between these two are blurred both conceptually and operationally. At the one extreme end, the differences are crystal clear, as discussed above. But these differences may not always hold true because tactics is generated by strategy and may rightly be called sub-strategy. What is one manager’s strategy is another manager’s tactics and vice-versa. For example, strategies are developed at the headquarters the strategic planning process. Various divisions of the company may then pursue sub strategies within this strategic planning. Thus, what might be considered tactical plans at the headquarters may be termed as strategy at the divisional levels. Thus, depending on the level of the organization, an action may be strategic or tactical.