An ad hoc manager who needs only to respond to a short-term crisis may be able to get by with little capacity for strategic planning, since the short-term nature of such management does not entail any ability to function effectively over a long period.
However, subject to that exception, strategic planning is a skill required of all managers.
Thus, in general, a manager’s vision must be linked to specific strategic initiatives.
They, in turn, must be linked to practical plans for their technical execution.
Organizational performance must be modified to ensure the strategic initiatives are being realized and the vision implemented.
Performance assessment must be sufficiently versatile to take into account the possibility that other aspects of organizational performance, or even the viability of the organization, are being adversely affected by the effort to implement each particular strategic initiative.
Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to equate management with the ability to identify strategic goals and to develop and refine overall plans for attaining those goals.
The ability to carry out strategic planning is a necessary but not a sufficient skill of sustainable leadership.
Strategy differs from tactics in that the latter is the deployment of resources in a series of consistent steps to attain intermediate objectives that serve the overall strategic goal.
The tactical plans of individual departments and divisions within an organization must be co-ordinated and focused on the organization’s strategic objective if there is to be any hope of attaining that objective.
If strategy is the long-term plan (the identification of risk and opportunity and the ranking of priority), tactics represent the method of carrying the plan into effect — how to avoid risk, mitigate the damage caused if it occurs and exploit opportunities for developing the logistical, infrastructure to deliver the resources necessary to do so.
Since the circumstances of every organization are dynamic, susceptible to constant and unpredictable change, tactical planning tends to be of immediate or short-term application and operates at the micro level.
Strategy deals with the big picture, tactics relate to detail. The goal of leaders in improving organizational operations is to work towards continual improvement of existing operations, rather than towards some theoretical maximum efficiency level.
The efficiency of production and other aspects of organizational operations can be enhanced through refinement.
The techniques employed with a view towards such refinement — forecasting, planning, control and supervision, co-ordination – constitute the tactical methodologies employed to achieve the strategic objectives of the organization. Strategy is inherently macro in scope and long-term in nature.
Strategy does not consist of turning every development to one’s own advantage.
That is not possible.
It entails working consistently towards a defined goal and deploying resources and orienting all discretionary action (and, so far as circumstances permit, non-discretionary action) so that they serve the attainment of that goal.
Some failure along the way is inevitable, but systematic pursuit requires bringing forward concrete ideas for correcting the faults of the world in which we live in and providing a planned and orderly process for bringing those ideas into effect.
The subject of strategic planning and operation has been much discussed since ancient times and in virtually all cultures of the world.
Nowadays we always discuss present day western leaders when talking about strong individuals of power, and how it is appropriate to compare leaders to managers. It perhaps would be fitting to consider in this context the work of a prominent Asian thinker.
The Japanese soldier Miyamoto Musashi (born 1584) was one of the country’s leading military thinkers. His book of five rings gives a good deal of advice concerning both tactical and strategic issues.
While his book outlines only what is essentially a strategic approach to swordsmanship, the points Musashi raises can easily be modified so that they provide useful leadership lessons that are applicable in a wide range of contexts.
Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at email@example.com. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.