When facing a business challenge, entrepreneurs can approach the given situation in many ways – and that’s where tactical planning is the most valuable.
Sometimes making a quick decision is necessary. Suppose you run an eCommerce business that provides customized corporate gifts. All of a sudden, your primary supplier of packaging materials closes.
You can’t deliver customized corporate gifts if you’re out of packaging materials or your stock runs low. Accordingly, your supply manager needs to make a quick business decision — find a new supplier in a matter of days (if not hours), so the business can proceed as usual.
Creating a tactical plan and carefully thinking through your next steps is often a better problem-solving approach. Tactical planning means having a written outline of your actions to achieve a goal or address a problem.
So, if we go back to the example where you suddenly face a substantial business-related problem, you know what to do the moment the issue occurs – all because you already have a plan in place.
This could mean your supply manager has several backup suppliers lined up, or you change how you deliver your product.
Whatever the case, the big picture is that you know what to do and how to act when an unexpected situation occurs.
Tactical planning is a crucial element in business, and it differs from strategic and operational planning methods in many ways. The process happens in real-time, pursuing short-term outcomes and solutions.
Having a tactical methodology in place enables your business to make nimble maneuvers and excel within a respective market.
Below, we explain this advanced thinking technique, how it differs from strategic planning, what tactical plans entail, and everything else you need to know to enhance your business operations.
What is Tactical Planning?
Tactical planning entails systematically determining and scheduling all activities required to achieve strategic planning objectives. Such plans are typically shorter than strategic goals, and independent departments usually execute this type of preparation.
As a rule, tactics are usually flexible. This contrasts with strategic plans, which, when they fail, can do great harm to a company. Tactical plans are changeable and do minor damage to the organization if things go wrong.
If the strategic plan is for five years, then the tactical plan may be for one year. The exact time depends on the type of business and the required pace of change. Strategic plans are also different from operational plans because tasks are usually carried out by small teams, which then contribute to a company’s overall strategic and tactical objectives.
Again, the main characteristic of tactical plans is flexibility. These plans should adapt to the changing needs – and emergencies or contingencies – faced by a company.
For instance, if a company is a manufacturer of motorcycles and the CEO makes it a top strategy to increase production in the upcoming year, tactical plans are required for each manufacturing plant. These plans should accommodate uncertainties like cuts in supplies, machinery failure, a strike by employees, etc.
Strategic vs. Tactical Planning
Some 2,500 years ago, the famous Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War,” one of the world’s most influential books on military strategy. He states, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
In war and business, strategy and tactics are not at odds with one another– they’re on the same team.
Photo by The Biedermann Group
When we talk about strategic versus tactical planning, here’s how we define these two nouns in terms of business:
Strategy determines your long-term goals and how you plan to achieve them. Put differently; your strategy gives you the path toward achieving your company’s goals and missions. Some of the principal characteristics of the strategic planning process are:
- Usually long-term – 3-5 years out
- Broad goals and tasks
- Represent the “why” behind your work
- Stable and don’t change much
Tactics are more concrete than strategy and are often oriented toward smaller steps and shorter time frames. They involve resources, specific plans, best practices, and more.
These plans break up the goals you set in your strategic management objectives into workable tasks.
- Involve short-term goals – 1-2 years
- Bring narrow and focused goals.
- Explain how you’re going to reach the strategic plan goals
- Can be changed and modified quickly
Goal, Objective, Strategy, Tactic: What’s The Difference?
While we’re on the topic of differentiation, let’s briefly discuss these four commonly interchanged terms in media and marketing: goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics.
- A goal is a broad primary outcome. Goals are high-level descriptors of the outcome you wish to create.
- An objective is a measurable step you take to achieve a strategy. These specific outcomes define your goal, often described in specific quantitative measures.
- A strategy is a high-level approach you take to achieve a goal.
- A tactic is a tool you use in pursuing an objective associated with a strategy. These are specific actions you will take to achieve your goals.
To help make things clear, let’s throw in an example from Forbes:
- Goal: “Make our Core PC microprocessors a category leader in sales revenue by year X.”
- Objective: “Retain 70 percent or more of the active worldwide PC microprocessor market, according to Passmark’s CPU benchmark report.”
- Strategy: “Persuade buyers that our Core processors are the best on the market by associating with large, well-established PC manufacturers.”
- Tactic: “Through creative that underlies our messaging, we will leverage hardware partner brand awareness to include key messages about the Intel Inside program.”
How to Create a Tactical Plan
Next, let’s go through the steps of creating an actionable tactical plan that helps your company achieve its business goals.
Pay Attention to Your Company’s Vision
Since tactical plans are more or less based on strategic business plans, employees need to understand your company’s overall vision and goals. As soon as they recognize the “big picture,” and how their respective roles contributes to accomplishing this vision, they’re more likely to work harder. Use your plan to encourage your employees to contribute new ideas that can save your company time and money.
Set Goals and Objectives
The best tactical plans are founded on measurable objectives. Consider your workforce’s current workload and productivity level before prioritizing your goals based on what your organization needs most. Here are a couple of examples:
- Decrease churn rates by 5% in the next six months
- Create five original video ads per week
- Get 50 people to leave honest reviews on your website
Note that these short-term goals may change depending on the results of your team’s efforts and other factors.
Assign Actions to Objectives
To help your employees achieve your tactical planning objectives, it’s wise to assign concrete actions to each goal. After all, easy-to-follow actions can eliminate the risk of confusion.
For instance, if your objective is to decrease your company’s churn rates by 5% in the next six months, you need to take specific steps to make it happen. You may begin by asking ex-clients for feedback so you can gain valuable insight for building your objective.
Establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) helps employees know when they’re making progress with objectives. You can then evaluate them monthly or quarterly to determine the success of their efforts.
The KPIs you set should depend on your industry and business model. Choose KPIs that support your objectives, or you risk getting irrelevant information.
Examples of KPIs include profit, cost of goods sold, sales by region, customer satisfaction scores, customer lifetime value, quality assurance, and so on.
Make Use of Tools and Resources
For your team to accomplish tactical goals, they must have access to adequate tools and resources. As you develop your tactical planning, note what you need and deliver those tools and resources to your employees as soon as possible. Your team may need access to specific software, platforms, or even training to better understand your plan’s concept.
Assign Work to Specific People
Specific departments follow through with objectives better when they know who’s responsible for each task. While you create your tactical plans, delegate work to the most qualified people to get the job done. Even if many people are involved with a single task, it’s essential to stay clear about each person’s responsibilities.
Allow and Embrace Flexibility
You will always run into variables that hinder your team’s progress. For this reason, we recommend building, allowing, and embracing flexibility into your plan. You can think of it as a backup plan that permits changes to your methods or simply gives you more time.
When developing a tactical plan, do only what works best for your specific business needs. Each company has a unique story with different goals, employees, and resources. At the end of the day, what works for one company may not work for another.
Setting suitable objectives and identifying strategies or opportunities are vital to growing a business. Nevertheless, you need to turn your ideas into actions if you want to achieve your end goals.
Tactical planning builds on your expertise and research to let you make educated decisions about your business. With a tactical plan in place, you’ll know which assignments you can appoint to your employees and what needs to be done to reach your business goals.