How Strategy And Tactics Interact

“We’re hoping to succeed; we’re okay with failure. We just don’t want to land in between.”  David Chang is a noted Korean-American chef.  He is very insightful. Only a seasoned business risk taker would say that.

Intuitively at least, he knows that most outcomes in our life are the result of the interaction of three processes. Strategic, tactical and logistical. How they interact will define the nature of the outcome.For this discussion I want to assume that the logistical part is always good.  If you cannot implement your good tactics that is an entirely separate problem.

The key is to notice that neither strategy nor tactics can create success by themselves. There are four possible combinations. (1) Is Good Strategy (GS) and Good Tactics (GT). The others are combinations using the same coding.  Consider this chart.


  1. Good Strategy and Tactics. = Big Winner. iPhone, Facebook
  2. Good Strategy but Bad Tactics = Drifting. Hopeful. Trying different things. Not quite succeeding. Blackberry (they used to be in 1) Depending on what you want to emphasize, they could now be in any quadrant but 1
  3. Bad Strategy and Good Tactics = Instant Implosion. Immediate failure. Think “New” Coke, Heinz Green Ketchup
  4. Bad Strategy and Tactics = Drifting Again. Uncertain. Many new businesses fit here. 

David Chang is talking about the middle. Conditions two and four. He prefers (1) where he is a great success and would accept (3) an immediate failure.  The danger is being caught in the middle where you cannot tell if the venture is working, not working, will work, or has failed. Those conditions waste money, time, and energy resources.  They are emotionally debilitating.

It would be nice to be good at both strategy and tactics, but strategic decisions by themselves have uneven success. Good tactical decisions on the other hand always tell you something. The key to long term success is to have a good strategy, but entrepreneurs learn to make excellent tactical decisions.  Amateurs think entrepreneurs just have good ideas. Experience teaches when  the idea is weak, there will be prompt failures.  Cut the losses quickly and try a better idea. Let winners run.

For efficiency, tactics matter most; again assuming you actually implement them.  Only the marketplace will tell you how you are doing.

Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.

Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese

Be a difference maker and learn to live with some ideas not working.

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario.  In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  866-285-7772

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