Strategy and Tactics

It is beneficial to make distinction between strategy and tactics so that managers can concentrate themselves on strategic functions rather than engaging in tactical functions. Organizational decisions range across a spectrum, having a broad master strategy at one end and minute tactics at the other. The major difference between strategy and tactics is that strategy determines what major plans are to be undertaken and allocates resources to them, while tactics, in contrast, is means by which previously determined plans are executed. Beyond this major difference, there may be some other differences, which can be understood better by analyzing military use of strategy and tactics.

Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian army general and military scientist, defines military strategy as ‘making use of battles in the furtherance of the war’ and the tactics as ‘the use of armed forces in battle.’ A successor to Clausewitz, Count von Moltke is more lucid in making distinction between strategy and tactics.

He states that:

‘Strategy is a system of make shifts. It is carried through an originally conceived plan under a constantly shifting set of circumstances. Strategy furnishes tactics with the opportunity to
strike with the prospect of success. It does this through its conduct of the armies and their concentration on the field of battle. On the other hand, however, strategy concept accepts the
results of every single engagement and builds on them. Strategy retires when a tactical victory is in the making in order later to exploit the newly created situation.

The basic goal of strategy accordingly is to break the will of the army, deprive him of the means to fight, occupy his territory, destroy or obtain control of his resources or otherwise make him submit. The goal of tactics is success in a given action which is only one part in a group of related military actions.A further distinction between strategy and tactics as used in Military Science is made on the basis of delegation of decision making authority. Strategic decisions are not delegated too low in the organization. Normally the authority is not delegated below the levels than those, which possess the perspective required for the most effective decisions.

Such a distinction between strategy and tactics is quite sharp. However, business is different from war in its true perspective not only in terms of its objectives vis-a-vis its competitors but also in terms of process of achievement of objectives. In business, there is seldom a win-lose situation as is the case with the war. Therefore, the distinction should be made between strategy and tactics in business terms.