- Vision: What you want the organization to be; your dream.
- Strategy: What you are going to do to achieve your vision.
- Tactics: How you will achieve your strategy and when.
Your vision is your dream of what you want the organization to be. Your strategy is the large-scale plan you will follow to make the dream happen. Your tactics are the specific actions you will take to follow the plan. Start with the vision and work down to the tactics as you plan for your organization.
Concepts Are The Same
Whether you are planning for the entire company or just for your department the concepts are the same. Only the scale is different. You start with the vision statement (sometimes called a mission statement). When you know what the vision is you can develop a strategy to get you to the vision. When you have decided on a strategy, you can develop tactics to meet the strategy.
A vision is an over-riding idea of what the organization should be. Often it reflects the dream of the founder or leader. Your company’s vision could be, for example, to be “the largest retailer of automobiles in the US”, “the maker of the finest chocolate candies in London”, or “the management consultant of choice for non-profit organizations in the Southwest.” A vision must be sufficiently clear and concise that everyone in the organization understands it and can buy into it with passion.
Your strategy is one or more plans that you will use to achieve your vision. To be “the largest retailer of automobiles in the US” you might have to decide whether it is better strategy for you to buy other retailers, try to grow a single retailer, or a combination of both. A strategy looks inward at the organization, but it also looks outward at the competition and at the environment and business climate.
To be “the management consultant of choice for non-profit organizations in the Southwest” your strategy would need to evaluate what other companies offer management consulting services in the Southwest, which of those target non-profits, and which companies could in the future begin to offer competing services. Your strategy also must determine how you will become “the consultant of choice”. What will you do so that your targeted customers choose you over everyone else? Are you going to offer the lowest fees? Will you offer a guarantee? Will you hire the very best people and build a reputation for delivering the most innovative solutions?
If you decide to compete on lowest billing rates, what will you do if a competing consulting firm drops their rates below yours? If you decide to hire the best people, how will you attract them? Will you pay the highest salaries in a four-state area, give each employee an ownership position in the company, or pay annual retention bonuses? Your strategy must consider all these issues and find a solution that works AND that is true to your vision.
Your tactics are the specific actions, sequences of actions, and schedules you will use to fulfill your strategy. If you have more than one strategy you will have different tactics for each. A strategy to be the most well-known management consultant, as part of your vision to be “the management consultant of choice for non-profit organizations in the Southwest” might involve tactics like advertising in the Southwest Non-Profits Quarterly Newsletter for three successive issues, advertising in the three largest-circulation newspapers in the Southwest for the next six months, and buying TV time monthly on every major-market TV station in the southwest to promote your services. Or it might involve sending a letter of introduction and a brochure to the Executive Director of every non-profit organization in the Southwest with an annual budget of over $500,000.
Firm or Flexible?
Things change. You need to change with them, or ahead of them. However, with respect to vision, strategy and tactics, you need some flexibility and some firmness. Hold to your dream, your vision. Don’t let that be buffeted by the winds of change. Your vision should be the anchor that holds all the rest together. Strategy is a long-term plan, so it may need to change in response to internal or external changes, but strategy changes should only happen with considerable thought. Changes to strategy also should not happen until you have a new one to replace the old one. Tactics are the most flexible. If some tactic isn’t working, adjust it and try again.
Manage This Issue
Whether for one department or the entire company, for a multi-national corporation or a one-person company, vision, strategy, and tactics are essential. Develop the vision first and hold to it. Develop a strategy to achieve your vision and change it as you have to to meet internal or external changes. Develop flexible tactics that can move you toward fulfilling your strategy.
By F. John Reh, About.com Guide