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No strategy can ever be accomplished with specific details on HOW they will be undertaken.  As many know this is what you call tactics.  Its the tricks, approach, resources and measures taken to achieve specific strategic objective(s).  Yes, tactics can and often contribute to the benefit of multiple strategic objectives.  Crafted by experts from various segments of the business they put together a program that will in combination move the chess piece one square forward in accomplishing goals.  You would think that something produced by experts, tied to goals and supported by the most senior of management would achieve success with a high degree of certainty (even despite influences outside of your direct control).  Yet time and time again the tactics being used  have issues.  Let us explore some of these in the upcoming sections.

Evil Tactics

ImageBusiness is both externally as well as internally competitive.  I once made the comment to a Fortune 50 company that his competition wasn’t really the guy across the street but the internal turmoil that was within the company itself.  People vieing for stature, stability, upward mobility will go to great lengths to achieve their goals, often at the expense of others.  This is quite dismissed as the normal course of business.  But should it be tolerated or should a change in the direction of cohesiveness occur?  I’m sure we have all seen the destructive nature of this behavior where back office support is dismissed as a contributor and the front line marketing publicity efforts are considered the savior of all.  The fact…. you need a complete cohesive solution and not worry or measure contributory value.  The mouth and the brain will fail to be of value, although they are the most prominent, if something as simple as the pancreas fails to produce enzymes.

In similar ways tactical plans and programs suffer from an affliction like strategies, the are too dependent upon form and lack in sufficient content.  But in addition tactics tend to have the potential for misunderstanding what the strategic goals are.  So imagine, if you will, a goal of building a viral social following and having a tactical plan that depends only on social networks.  Yet the social following that is being sought does not use social networks as the medium for connecting with your business.  While it achieved its own tactical purpose it failed to fulfill the ambitions of the strategy.  Also as mentioned earlier tactics have the potential of serving multiple strategic goals but this can also be a problem.  This is especially true when clarity, consistency and stakeholder cohesion is not taking place.  A great tactic, with the right timing and supported with proper resources can fail despite having sufficient capabilities.

The Skinny

ImageLike Russian nesting dolls there may be many levels of tactical details.  Each reaching out to another level of the organization in order to create the machinery necessary to achieve goals.  Tactics involve operations, administrative and promotional segments of the business  and must be coordinated and actively monitored for cohesion.  Just like a well oiled machine how well these mesh together will determine both durability and efficiency.  Beware however that some believe that tactical plans are something that you implement on top of your business and not embed into it.  This is wrong, should be avoided and will result in more costs and higher risks.  In large part this is the result of creating a vaneer of tactic focused behavior on top of a business which is already operating with a modest amount of efficiency.  An example that is quite similar is the addition of new taxes which then have to be either embedded on top of existing tax handling mechanics or a separate process be implemented to address the new additional tax.

Tactical plans often align with the various structures of the business.  Marketing, sales, operations, administration, procurement and so forth. Its easier that way because governance ownership is much easier to implement.  But its also easier to provide oversight monitoring and make appropriate alterations to the tactics then to be bound to ones in which a legion of cross business sections need to give their blessing to.  So in lies yet another issue to be aware of, despite tactical plan independence one must coordinate changes and observations to their fellow tactical administrators.  If you observe a difference in customer behavior then it should be communicated across the organization.  Barriers should be removed as much as practical and possible to foster the free flow of information.

Tactical plans involve resources, funding, measures (aka metrics) and contributory connection.  No tactic is and of itself an island, it must be of business value AND must without exception coordinate with two or more other tactical plans.

In most organizations the process of tactical planning isn’t all that new.  In fact we have seen a consistent and continued improvement in the development of tactics of businesses (both big and small).  What we have not seen is tactics that are aggressively monitored, pre-tested (or at minimum reviewed impartially), barriers that remain in place and a bit of confusion about its connected

Vogue Authentication

ImageAs mentioned previously almost all organizations have some rudimentary experience in crafting tactical plans.  In doing so there is a temptation to employ vogue technologies and while they may be beneficial there is also the strong possibility that they be ill times, not applicable and possible introduce failure risk potential because we lack experience in utilizing them.  Some present day examples include cloud computing, social network engineering, big data analysis repositories, advance logistics handling and statistical quality control measures.  These are all valid, appropriate and potentially useful but like any technology tools they must be applied as a controllable solution and not an adoption based on popularity.  It a bit of a no brainer but if it was that straight forward companies would not be gambling the attainment of strategic goals in favor of being one of the early adopters into an environment that hasn’t the capacity to properly administer them.  Lets consider that we plan to take the leap of faith we must be prepared with capabilities and capacity to carry out the tactics and support these elements.  While one can always go outside the company to utilize skilled talent we need, as a secondary measure, to be able to carry the baton for ourselves.  It is of no value to lay blame on a contractor who fails when it was, and always is, our decision on how matters will be carried out.  Dependency based tactics with a heavy reliance on external services is dangerous.  The number of risks goes up considerably and despite the blame being placed on the contractor the fact remains… the tactic has failed and so has the potential for the strategic goals to fail as well.  Failure isn’t an option that we can accept if measures can be taken to avoid them in the first place by using appropriate measures of precaution.

It would be remiss to not mention internal controls, those checks and balances, used to foster operational integrity.  Whether its for coordination of efforts or the management of reporting internal controls are essential BUT they come at a cost in terms of operational efficiency and monetarily.

Vertical Tactics

ImageWhen we think of tactics we must give consideration to their cycle of change.  While revisited on a regular ongoing basis they often have overall durability in the neighborhood of 12-18 months.  The consistency of tactical plans strongly encourages a 12 month rolling cycle in order that we don’t have that bit of jerky stop-and-start taking place.  I think most would agree that in the context of the present day business cycle that would be just about as long as one might tolerate before a reshaping needs to occur.  It will be more often the case that tactical adjustment will be imposed not through self-awareness but as a result of strategic adjustments coming from above.  But should the tactic require change it must be communicated horizontally across the other tactical participants and vertically to those governing the company’s strategy.

The complexity of tactical planning should not be underestimated.  Factors involving,

  • cultural silos,
  • cross organizational structure,
  • international divisions,
  • product/service line integration and
  • turf governance

are all major substantial influences on the development, delivery, implementation, monitoring and adjustment to tactical plans (along with modifications made to the tapestry of strategic goals).

Conclusion

ImageMuch more can be said about tactical planning.  Some that is directly related to innovative tactical development while others that are more driven my external influences coming from the market (and possibly regulatory bodies).  It is my hope that this has provided a foundational starting point and that further discussions will help increase ones awareness that tactical plans are essential for strategic business success.

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