Tactics win battles — they are fluid and can change daily
Strategy win wars — it’s the path or road to take
Grand Strategy wins the peace — it’s the fork in the road one you get to your destination.
Switching between all three will allow you to adjust to changing conditions while still maintaing some focus
Understanding the role of tactics, strategy and grand strategy will allow you to better map the course of your company. Too often, managers don’t understand the overall strategy of their group nor the grand strategy of the company. Unless this is clear in your mind, the daily decisions you make may be wrong. This is why it is important to understand the differences and spend time each week thinking about all three.
Tactics: Solve immediate problems
Tactics can change, depending on the types of problems you face. In general, tactics focus on the daily, to the one-to-two-months-out and are associated with getting specific tasks done. They are short in duration and are reactive. Examples of tactics would be: using a specific tool to get your job done, your weekly status meeting and attending a customer requirements meeting. Tactics can change rapidly and usually come from a vast tool kit of skills and knowledge. Tactics win battles.
Strategy: The path to take
Strategy usually consists of a one to two year group direction. Strategy should be firm because it sets the direction. A constantly changing direction is the sign of a poorly formed strategy. A strategy should be well thought out and align with the company’s grand strategy. Too often, strategy and tactics are confused and intermixed. Think of strategy as the company’s vision while tactics are the detailed projects that achieve the vision. Strategy should also take into account what other groups are doing as well as your competition. Examples include product roadmaps, development platform (like an operating system) and market segments to attack (like consumer). Strategy wins wars.
Grand Strategy: Which fork to take
Grand strategy is what happens after you get the product out or obtain a number one position in the market. It is akin to building a platform for growth that can be expanded into different applications or markets. Grand strategy is your plan for the future. These are the big ideas that change paradigms. Some examples include migration from an established platform, changing the way products are delivered (like web-based software) and branching into totally new markets because of a core technology. Grand Strategy wins the peace.
All Three Are Important
Keep in mind that you cannot just focus on either tactics, strategy or grand strategy. You must keep all of these in your head and switch between them when conditions warrant. This is the only way to see the forest through the trees. Sometimes you will need to focus just on tactics to get past a major hurdle while other times you really need to think about the direction your group or company is going.
Switching between the three takes practice. Tactics get stuff done, so most technical managers spend all of their time there. The strategic vision is the compass for which your group should steer. It should always be clear in everyone’s mind where you are going and why. Grand strategy is how you get prompted. It shows a level of thinking that takes your group and company beyond where they are today.
Things To Ponder
Step back from your daily tasks and write down where your group is going in one, two and three years.
Using the list above, write down three to four bullets on how you will get there.
Write a paragraph on how you would crush your existing products. Think about technologies that may or may not exist.
Briefly describe your product’s features, functions and technology. Find common or platform technologies that they are built on. Can this platform be used for other solutions? What would have to be added to make that happen?
Write a paragraph about what happens after you gain 100% market share. What can you do to make that vision happen now?