Tactical Planning for Businesses

When your business defines its overarching long-term goals, it likely also puts together strategic plans to go with them. These plans, which set out the overall vision and objectives for the company, mean nothing without there also being tactical plans in place, however.  

While strategy asks “what?”, tactics answer these questions with the “how?” and the “who?”—i.e., an organization will ask what needs to be done to meet a specific long-term target while your teams and employees on the ground will apply the how and the who to get it done.

Ultimately, tactics lead to the creation of clearly defined and unambiguous action items. These can then be used by employees and executives to meet the goals and objectives contained within strategic plans.


Strategy vs Tactics

It’s typically the case that people confuse strategy and tactics by assuming the two terms are the same thing, but they’re not.

Strategy concerns your long-term goals and how you plan to achieve them. Put simply, it helps you build a pathway towards achieving your organization’s core mission.

Tactics are much more concrete and focus on smaller steps along this pathway. They involve specific plans, skilled resources, and best practices.

While a strategy involves everyone in an organization, tactics involve specific skilled teams that are equipped to deal with what they require.


What is Tactical Planning?

Tactical planning takes your company’s strategic plan and uses it to drill down to specific short-term actions and plans that can then be divvied up between your teams depending on their function.

Naturally, the life cycle of these tactical plans is much shorter than the strategic plans.

Where a company sets out its strategic plan for the next five years, for example, tactical plans accompanying it may only be for a period of time up to a couple of years or less. This is of course dependant on the individual business and its operations. In volatile markets subject to more frequent changes, these timeframes can be much shorter.

Tactical planning is something that can take a while to complete, but once it’s done, everyone has clear and actionable instructions. It’s the best way to make sure everyone is on the same page and that all your operations are focused on the same strategic vision.


Tactical Planning Examples

While specific strategic and tactical plans can vary between companies and industries, they all follow the same model: A strategic plan defines a long-term goal, and the tactical plan defines the steps needed to achieve it.

Here are some quick examples where the number is the strategic plan and the bullet points are the tactical plans.

1. Hire and develop a diverse cohort of new employees and retain them in the long-term.

  • Research salary survey data to determine the compensation of new hires.
  • Carry out effective exit interviews to find out why people are leaving.
  • Develop outreach programs that target diverse areas (i.e., schools, cities).
  • Develop in-house training for managers and supervisors on diversity & inclusivity.

2. Reorganize the business so that it is more closely aligned with the industry.

  • Review the existing roles and responsibilities of teams and business units.
  • Develop a reorganization proposal and distribute it to all employees.
  • Consult with employees to find out their operational pain points.
  • Experiment with org charts to build a new structure that supports our strategic goals.

3. Double the number of marketing assistants by the end of Q2

  • Create a detailed hiring profile that spells out the minimum candidate criteria.
  • Develop an outreach campaign that will target and attract the right talent.
  • Build an efficient onboarding process to make a great first impression to the new hires.


How to Build Your Own Tactical Plan

Since tactical planning is the process of breaking down your strategic plan into distinctive, concrete short-term plans, then that’s exactly what you should do:

1. Consider the Overall Vision

Since your tactical plans are influenced heavily by your overall strategic business plans, it’s important that you keep these in mind when creating your tactical plans. It’s also important to communicate your strategic plan to your employees who will be carrying out your tactical plans and make sure that they truly understand it. Once your employees understand the larger goal and how they can contribute to it, they’re far more likely to meet their individual tactical objectives.

2. Create Clear Objectives and Goals

Strategic planning rests on measurable and realistic goals and objectives, with objectives that are more complex requiring more time, money, and resources to achieve.

Before creating these objectives, consider your individual teams’ workloads and then prioritize your strategic plans based on i) what your company needs most and ii) how likely the objective is likely to be achieved given how busy or productive your team is.

3. Assign Actions to These Plans

It’s all well and good defining strategic plans like “Increase new leads by 20% before Q3” or “Produce a series of eight blog posts about <insert niche topic here>” but if you don’t have specific plans in place to achieve them, then you may struggle.

To assist your teams in achieving specific objectives, it’s a good idea to assign concrete action items to each one. Doing so eliminates the risk of confusion and provides your employees with easy-to-follow instructions that are aligned with their core skills.

4. Define Your KPIs

Key performance indicators (KPIs) help you determine if you’re on the right track. For example, a KPI for “Increase new leads by 20% before Q3” could be a measurable rise in the number of new enquiries you’ve received, or a higher conversion rate on your website.

KPIs can be evaluated weekly, monthly, or quarterly to determine the success of your team’s efforts. The KPIs that you set and measure depend on your industry and you should only set ones that support your objectives; those that don’t will do nothing but feed you irrelevant information.

Other examples of KPIs include:

  • Customer satisfaction score
  • Quarterly or annual profit compared to previous reports
  • Sales figures
  • Product enquiries received
  • New positive customer reviews

5. Delegate Actions to Specific Teams

Teams work best and follow through with objectives better when they know who’s responsible for what.

As you put together your tactical plans, delegate the work to the people or teams that are most qualified to take on the work. While there may be many people or teams involved with a single objective, it’s important that your tactical plans and goals are more focused and are unambiguously clear about who is taking each one on.

One of the biggest advantages to tactical planning is that nobody is left behind confused about what needs to be done. Instead, they get the momentum going and allow your strategic plan to come to life.