Recently, when teaching a quality management course in which the discussion focused on strategy and tactics, a student asked a simple question. "Why worry about strategy?"

Over the years we've been involved with strategic planning with a few companies, and we've also written a few articles about the topic. But something I recently read was on point. To summarize the key points of the discussion, here are some takeaways.

There generally seems to be confusion between tactics and strategy. It's easy to get tied up in knots as we work to figure out the difference. It's worth it, though, to understand the difference because strategy can save us when tactics fail to deliver. This is true in our personal as well as our professional world.

Certainly, if a tactic fails, we should consider abandoning it. If something's not working, why waste more time and resources for little return?

However, that doesn't mean that there's something wrong with our strategy. Our strategy is what we keep doing, even after we discontinue a tactic as something unproductive.

As an example, consider an insurance broker deciding that the goal is to have more clients than any other broker in the area. The strategy, then, might be to achieve that goal by becoming the most trusted broker in town.

There could be 100 tactics that could be used to earn that trust. Events could be coordinated, teams sponsored, community meetings hosted, radio and T.V. commercials ran, sponsor local youth sports teams, be transparent about sales/earnings, hire summer interns, provide scholarships, host seminars at the local library, etc.

It doesn't matter if a few of the tactics aren't very successful. If nothing else, even the unsuccessful tactics add to name recognition.

However, if once, just once, the insurance broker violates someone's trust or expectations, the entire strategy flies out the window and is destroyed.

The point is that tactics are more short-term, therefore disposable, but strategy is for the long haul. Focus on what's really important and supportive of the strategy.

Think about it...