Strategy & Tactics

What is the difference?

I am working on a proposal for a client. The request from the client included what they called a mission. The mission was clearly worded, but vague. Let's take a look!

  1. Examine the current situation.
  2. Define and develop alternatives.
  3. Evaluate the alternatives.
  4. Present the alternatives.

A very tactical set of steps. Do this, then this, then this, finally do that.
Stop. Think. After reading their request three times, the last time out loud, I asked these questions:

  1. What you you think is wrong with the situation that you want it evaluated?
  2. Why do you think the situation can be improved?
  3. What is working for you and not working for you?
  4. How do you want me to measure the potential improvement?
  5. What alternatives are you unwilling to consider?
  6. Where are the limits to your sphere of control?

I could have gone on. I did not need to. Those six questions proved sufficient to open up the discussion. With those six questions we started to discuss the strategic goals they wanted to achieve.

My response to the request was a strategic effort to help define why the client wanted us to do something. Asking the questions was tactical, as were the questions themselves. The purpose of the questions was to clarify why they wanted me to do the project.

You could argue that the client's mission was clear enough. To me, the mission was vague. I knew that without knowing how the client wanted to measure success, what they thought was wrong, what was outside their sphere of control, and what they were unwilling to do, I could be walking into quicksand, and taking the client with me.

Watch Eli Goldratt's video below on strategy and tactics. It is one of the best discussions about the difference I have heard in a long time.

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Articles in This Series

Articles in This Series


Strategy & Tactics: The Wrong Way

Back in the late 1990s at a supply chain conference, I watched a presentation about strategy and tactics.  You know these conferences, where the 2,500 – 4,000 attendees break out into 20 – 30 concurrent educational sessions presented by a peer, educator, a consultant, or someone from a service provider.       Read More

The Gemba Beyond the Window Part 1

I love the smell of machine oil. I love to hear the clanging and clanking of machinery in operation. I love the banging when one machine hammers away at a piece of metal to form it into something new, or the high-pitched “whir” of a loom or spinner in operation.   Read More

The Gemba Beyond the Window Part 2

I once went to a manufacturer of computer cabinets and racks—the kind you see in pictures of server farms. The owner was very proud of his facility, and on the surface it looked like there was a proper degree of order.    Read More


How much extra capacity do you have? Well, that depends. We sometimes hear that truck capacity is tight — meaning it is hard to get trucks to haul loads. I think for the most part, capacity is tight.               Read More

The Gemba Beyond the Window Part 3

Waste and inefficiency are not all you can find on a simple journey to Gemba. You can also spot safety hazards (both situational and behavioral) that have gone unchecked, and it’s only dumb luck that you have not already suffered a loss because of them. Read More

Lifecycles & Conjoined Functions

Twenty years ago, the business was a couple of brothers working out of a pickup truck. Ten years later, with six employees, the business generated $3 million in revenue.     Read More

Altering the Rule of Supply & Demand

A generally accepted rendition of the law of supply and demand is that if you have a lot of one item, the price for that item should go down.         Read More

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