Leadership & Strategy & Tactics

  Michael Porter, Harvard Business School professor and author of Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors (1980), defines strategy as the creation of a unique and valuable market position supported by a system of activities that fit together in a complementary way. It is about making choices and trade-offs. It is about deliberately choosing to be different.

It should not be confused with "operational effectiveness" -- what is good for everybody and what every business should be doing, e.g., performing better the same activities your competitors perform, TQM, benchmarking, or being a learning organization.

So when developing strategies, the goal is to be different from your competitors. However, this does not mean that you are willing to do anything. Thus, the goal is not to be all things to everyone, but to determine where the opportunities lie that you can best exploit.

All "strategic plans" need to tie in with the "strategic organization plan." That is, in going back to the definition of strategy, the leaders of the organization should create the unique and valuable market position; while your goal is to support the organization with activities that fit together in a complementary way. Now that does not mean you cannot do things differently or set your own goals. It simply means that you need to keep your leaders visions and goals in mind when setting the your goals. For example, if the leaders have ethics and diversity at the forefront of their strategic vision, you cannot put e-learning and knowledge management at the forefront of your strategic goals. However, that does not mean you cannot use e-learning and knowledge management technologies to bring about ethical and diversity goals.


Visioning is the start of any strategic plan. Once your leaders have set the organizational strategic plans, you need to determine how best your department can bring about changes that will support those plans. And while their strategic plans needs to be "unique," you need to think along the same lines. For more information on visions, see Visioning and Leading.

In addition, a visioning strategy takes a four-prong approach:

  • Internal Audit - Where are you now (snapshot)?
  • Reading and Research - Where can you grow?
  • Organization Vision - Where is the organization going?
  • Vision - Where do you want to grow?
Note that steps 1, 2, & 3 can be done in just about any order. Step 4 will be based upon the other three prongs.


Strategies are forward-looking. They provide the guidelines for growth. With strategies, you are in reality, talking of future performance gaps and how you are going to overcome them.

Tactical is more or less present or noworientated. So when speaking of tactical plans, you are basically speaking of present performance gaps and how you are going to overcome them.


What have you done today to enhance (or at least insure against the decline of) the relative overall useful-skill level of your work force vis-a-vis competitors - Tom Peters in Thriving on Chaos

. When Tom writes of "enhancing", he is speaking of the strategic plans that will grow the employees to meet tomorrow's challenges. When he writes of "insure against the decline of," he is speaking of the tactical impediments that are presently challenging employees from meeting expected performance standards. In order to grow, you must be able to ward off present roadblocks. Thus, tactical plans are about providing performance stability so that change may take affect for growth.

Strategies normally looks an average of about six-years into the future (with a range of about 1 to 10 years). Tactics look ahead just far enough to secure objectives set by strategy. Thus, tactics is characterized by adroitness, ingenuity, or skill. Note that tactics is from the Greek "taktika" -- matters pertaining to arrangement. On the other hand, strategy has its roots in "office of a General" or "to lead").


Command & Control

There are four basic functions used within all organizations for achieving their visions and goals: Command, Control, Leadership, and Management:

1. Command: forming and imparting visions:

  • Well formed visions
  • Clear goals and objectives for achieving the visions
  • QUALITY, low volume communications throughout the organization
  • Involvement to ensure results
2. Leadership: achieving visions through people:
  • Standard Bearer
  • Developing
  • Integrating
3. Management: implementing processes for achieving the visions
  • Planning
  • Organizing
  • Budgeting
4. Control: ensuring resources went were they were supposed to go
  • ROUTINE, high volume communications
  • Coordination between activities
  • Structure to reduce uncertainty
With Control and Management the ultimate goal is "efficiency" -- addressing how well the process was accomplished (form); while with Command and Leadership the ultimate goal is "effectiveness" -- achieving goals and mission (results). Generally, to achieve "form," one must conceptualize "processes"; while to achieve "results," one must conceptualize "tasks."

Thus, command and leadership decide what the organization should be doing, while control and management ensure that the resources used to achieve the results are used efficiently (without waste).


Frameworks of Command & Control

Command and Leadership uses the following framework:
  • Creating - creating a vision or task to achieve results.
  • Planning - how will you achieve the result.
  • Implementing - putting the plan into action.
  • Followup - ensuring that it gets done.

While Control and Management uses the following framework:

  • Observe - see what has happened.
  • Compare - what actually happened to what was supposed to happen.
  • Decide - does the comparison shows that the objectives were met, determine what needs changing.
  • Follow-up - ensure the change actually happened.


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Collins, Eliza and Devanna, Mary (1990). The Portable MBA. New York: John Wiley & Sons

FM 22-103, Leadership and Command at Senior Levels. U.S. Army manual.