Are you tactical or strategic?

Tactics are the actions taken to accomplish the strategy

In Summary

• When faced with a decision, don't jump onto the first idea that comes to mind

A man prepares a strategy
A man prepares a strategy

We all have goals, right? Whether it is to own a house, start a family, get into management or become a business leader, achieving our goals demands an investment in time, money and energy, but without a guarantee of getting the desired results.

Are you strategic or tactical? We often get so caught up in day-to-day activities that we lose sight of our goals. Does action equal progress? Is doing something better than doing nothing?

Sun Tzu, a Chinese army leader from thousands of years ago, concluded that tactics without strategy are the noises heard before a defeat. Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. From his experience, Sun Tzu established that tactics and strategy go hand in hand.

“Everyone can see the tactics I use to conquer, but none can see the strategy out of which victory is evolved,” Sun Tzu boasted.

Former military officer Dr Divakaran Pillay likens the difference between tactics and strategy to the difference between the visible and the invisible.

Tactics involve soldiers carrying out actions that capture, destroy, kill or wound opponents. Strategies exist in the minds of the strategist who plans the entire operation towards a particular objective.

“Simply put, strategy is the plan or set of goals to achieve an end state, usually long-term,” Pillay says.

“Tactics are the specific actions or steps undertaken to accomplish the strategy and entail actual actions which are visible on the ground.”

As strategy is not a structure to be seen or touched, many people succumb to pressure to deliver results and go straight into tactics. Understandably, we want to impress colleagues, customers and bosses with something they can see for themselves. Talking strategy can make one appear out of touch with reality.

As explained in a previous Star article on effectiveness, most people would rather take action instead of sparing time for planning. The process of planning appears like idling, hence the bias towards executing tasks. However, looking busy is just as bad as not having any goals. Time gets filled up with intense activity that is not part of a strategy.

Strategic thinking is not something that only corporate leaders should be doing. An array of experts on personal development agree that developing your strategic thinking skills helps with making better decisions, solving problems more effectively and achieving your goals.

Gathering information before deciding on a course of action is a great way to start thinking strategically. Find out more about the situation you are facing, the potential consequences of your actions and the resources available to you. Resources include money, property, knowledge and personal networks.

When faced with a decision, don't jump onto the first idea that comes to mind. Consider all of your options while analysing the advantages and disadvantages of each (there are no perfect decisions). Once you have made a decision, seek feedback from others. This can help you identify potential problems with your decision for necessary adjustments to be made.

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