What’s Best? Strategy or Tactics

Recently during an executive consulting session, I was asked which is the more important conversation to initiate with a client, the tactical conversation or the strategic one? Answer…it’s situational but, it is better to err on the strategic side. Once you go tactical you can’t go back.

Strategy Trumps Tactics…at First

Think of it this way.  A client must understand the strategic implication of your recommendation well before they agree to the operationalized tactical action step. They need the context/purpose of the idea before they buy the implementation of it. You need to get them to agree to the direction you are taking them. It will require all of the research and probing questions I write about here often. This pre-meeting work will give you confidence in your recommendations and you will advise based on the strategy you have mapped out. If you fire off a litany of tactics right from the start, you open yourself up to the client taking each one and analyzing whether it will work.  But based on what? You haven’t set up the tactics with a solid strategy.  Do that and you’ll be on a more solid foundation to move forward. But it can’t end there.

Tactics Will Prove the Strategy Right

Once you and your client have agreed to the strategy, guess what? You have to execute it! That should be easy because you came up with the strategy and know that it will work because of the work you’ve done to develop it. But so many times, it’s “in the details” where teams, or individuals, fail, leaving a trail of great strategy in their wake. As their leader, you need to keep them on strategy and monitor their success.  Yes, your strategy may need adjusting based on what happens out there in the “real world,” but no too much.  Stick to your guns because the tactics will back you up.

Put forth the strategy first and let me know how it goes!