Executing a strategic plan takes careful consideration, planning, and prioritization. When outlining how to achieve overarching strategic objectives, tactical planning is a process that organizations use to help increase efficiency and reach their goals successfully. In this article, we will outline what tactical planning is, why it’s important, and its necessary elements.
What is Tactical Planning?
Tactical planning is defined as the process of taking an overarching strategic plan and creating actionable short and medium-term timelines to achieve your goals. Tactical planning usually helps define goals at multiple levels and can help break down long-term strategic objectives into benchmarks that can be reached in smaller and more focused projects. Alignment is important for creating effective goals, and tactical planning is a key step to achieving alignment throughout a strategic vision.
As previously mentioned, tactical planning is usually utilized when an organization needs to formulate a plan of action to meet larger strategic objectives. This could be an immediate call to action or one that spans a couple of months; it just depends on the desired objectives. Because of this, tactical planning is a flexible strategy that organizations utilize when they need to break down a larger vision into tangible steps.
Tactical planning usually involves a couple of key steps, including creating goals, dividing responsibility, funneling resources, creating a timeline, and assigning specific tasks. Creating goals is a key part of the tactical planning process, and teams traditionally seek to create SMART goals to help fuel their success. Setting SMART goals allows organizations to increase efficiency and productivity for teams by creating clear, attainable goals for any size project. SMART goals stand for:
- Specific: Goals should be very specific to help people focus their efforts on completing their tasks.
- Measurable: Measurable goals allow people to track their progress and define the course to success.
- Achievable: Goals need to be realistically achievable to keep teams moving forward and maintain team confidence.
- Relevant: Make sure the goal matters to the team and reflects the priorities of the overarching strategy.
- Timely: Timelines help teams stay on track and create predictable project cycles.
Tactical planning is not strictly used as an actionable prompt for strategic planning and can be applied in multiple other scenarios as well. Here are some of the ways that tactical planning can be utilized within an organization:
- When immediate action is required.
- When an organization wants to implement a large-scale change throughout the business.
- Translating long-term goals to realistic plans of action.
- As the implementation of strategic planning results.
Learn more: What is Enterprise Planning?
Tactical Planning Process: 6 Key Steps
Tactical planning is a process that can be edited depending on the strategic plans being pursued by an organization, but it generally follows a similar set of steps when implemented correctly. Here are the main elements of tactical planning that your team can’t miss.
One of the most important parts of tactical planning is mapping goals accurately between strategic long-term goals and short-term objectives. For most organizations, this will entail creating a system of SMART goals to target objectives and provide a system of actionable tasks to achieve short-term goals and move toward long-term objectives. Because tactical planning is focused on linking strategic goals with achievable immediate actions, most of these goals will be structured to optimize immediate performance and create systems of action for current projects.
The goal-creation process should begin with the overarching strategic goals and should trickle down to creating projects that address these goals while also meeting customer needs. Goals need to be measurable to ensure they can be tracked throughout the process. Tracking goals is key to optimizing them and understanding if they’re meeting objectives. As defined by SMART goals, goals need a couple of items to be accurate and actionable. They need to be relevant to the overall objectives of the team, achievable to keep progress moving, and timely to create predictable and accurate project cycles. All of these elements help create informed and successful goals for your team to follow.
Tactics are the specific strategies and micro-strategies that your team uses to reach your goals. This involves the research, development, implementation, and quality assurance of any solution created as part of a larger goal. Implementing tactics for your team is a process of creating a small-scale strategy to achieve your goals through task implementation. Tactics will explain the strategy and targeting of specific tasks to come and will allow teams to reach their goals in the most efficient way possible.
One thing that’s important to emphasize when creating tactics for your goals is the KPIs that your team is monitoring. Tracking the right KPIs (key performance indicators) is critical to ensuring goals are accurately positioned to reach high-level strategic objectives, and these KPIs need to translate into the tactics of each team as well. Make sure that the KPIs of your strategic goals are reflected in your tactical strategy.
Once you have a solid tactical strategy set up to achieve your goals, you can focus on the actual tasks needed to achieve your goals. Tasks fall under a system of goals and describe the daily actions completed in order to accomplish larger sets of objectives. They are usually structured around the timelines of the goals to help teams finish projects on time and in a regular sequence.
For the daily operation of a team, tasks will be the most important regular touchpoint to make progress and move forward. They are crucial to create regular structure for teams. They’re emphasized here because they’re a critical touchpoint to link larger strategic goals to individual actions, and this connection is critical to ensure everything works in an aligned system.
When creating a tactical plan, resource allocation is important to perform the individual tasks in the plan, develop changes correctly, and make efficient progress. Resources don’t just refer to money; they can include materials, time, finances, team bandwidth, product details, equipment, and more. Each project will require a specific allocation of resources, and it’s up to the project management team to determine how to allocate resources between projects to ensure maximum efficiency.
Tactical planning requires a clear timeline to ensure everyone has clear and aligned expectations. Following deadlines, creating project boundaries, and forming a timeline for all tasks to finish within will provide teams with a solid cadence and clear priorities going forward. This helps eliminate miscommunication and can improve efficiency and work product for everyone. Timelines also give leadership a place to clarify priorities and communicate needs to an entire team. This makes them an essential element of tactical planning and a crucial place to create team alignment.
An important thing to remember with tactical planning is that not everything needs to boil down to the immediate tasks. Successful teams will always create forward-looking plans, and this requires a certain amount of flexibility to function correctly. When creating flexible plans, teams can have more reassurance and be prepared for something going wrong. If you don’t plan for potential roadblocks, you might panic when they inevitably arise. Make sure that your team is flexible and open to change along the way to ensure you’re ready to tackle any surprise challenge.
Learn more: 7 Key Visual Thinking Advantages
Examples of Tactical Planning
When creating tactical planning scenarios, there are a number of templates you can use. A very popular example within teams is the SWOT template. This is a popular brainstorming template that can also be used to effectively organize a tactical planning example. Using a SWOT template can help expose places an organization needs to focus and can be the inspiration behind a new tactical planning strategy. In order to better explain how tactical planning can be implemented, we outlined a couple of simple tactical planning examples to illustrate what a basic overview might look like.
Increase Enterprise Sales: An organization decides that it wants to shift focus to enterprise sales instead of B2C sales. This requires a different strategy to implement effectively. The tactical planning steps might look like this:
- Attend enterprise networking events to build connections and increase market understanding.
- Build enterprise context through trainings and product familiarity.
- Increase the priority of enterprise deals through incentives and client opportunities.
- Double individual pipelines with enterprise contacts in two weeks.
Strengthen Brand Positioning: Your business has a solid product offering, but you want to strengthen your brand positioning to increase visibility and credibility. This requires strategic repositioning within the ecosystem to evoke the right feelings in your users. Here’s what your tactical planning might look like:
- Build brand alliances with 10 high-potential partners.
- Refresh brand image through high-credibility marketing campaigns. Update brand values to differentiate within the market.
- Implement SEO structure to increase overall web presence and memorability.
- Change product packaging to reflect new values.
Hire a New Development Team: As an effort to increase feature depth and product stickiness, you’re focusing on hiring a new development team to supplement product growth. Here’s what a tactical plan for the hiring process might entail:
- Add job postings for each position in all relevant channels.
- Distribute hiring profiles to all recruiters for accurate screening.
- Add technical experts to the interview process for improved feedback.
- Explore alternative hiring routes like universities or lateral hires.
- Implement outreach campaigns for talented individuals that meet the hiring profile.
Tactical Planning Advantages
Tactical planning can make a difference for teams that are trying to implement their goals on a smaller scale. If your team is thinking about implementing a plan of action, but you aren’t sure if it will be beneficial, we’ve listed some of the biggest tactical planning advantages below.
- Support Larger Goals: Tactical planning is the process of translating large goals into specific, actionable strategies, so by engaging in it, you’re able to support larger goals throughout your organization.
- Improves Performance: When people are focused on how to support larger goals, their performance will be targeted toward achieving those benchmarks. This can help create focus and increase performance for everyone.
- Creates Alignment: Having a clever set of goals and a strategy to reach them is inspiring for teams, and engaging in strong tactical planning can create alignment for everyone.
- Engages Employees: Working towards the same set of goals can be a powerful experience for people, increasing motivation and engagement in the workplace. Additionally, people will generally feel like they have more ownership over their work because of how it affects the entire organization.
- Create Tangible Actions: Overarching goals can feel daunting and vague to teams, but tactical planning can make these strategies actionable. Having a succinct plan can help provide teams with a clear path forward to get started and take action to achieve their goals.
- Clarifies Prioritization: One big question people have about strategic planning is, “where do I start?” Tactical planning helps clarify the specific priorities teams should align themselves towards and removes miscommunication around overall priorities.
- Adds Flexibility: Tactical planning is flexible and can be modified if teams notice their KPIs aren’t being affected. Because you aren’t changing all the organization’s goals, you can alter your tactical plan as much as necessary to finalize the right solution.
- Follows Timelines: Tactical planning revolves around clear timelines and headlines, which helps teams organize themselves to complete projects on time. This provides structure to the business and creates predictable results.
- Tracks KPIs: If implemented correctly, tactical planning should follow clear KPIs to track the success of projects and their impact on overall goals. This can be a big benefit for teams who need measurable statistics to compare their progress with.
- Eliminates Waste: By introducing a clear formula for completing projects and addressing priorities, tactical planning can help eliminate wasteful practices in a team’s workflow. This can go further than improving efficiency and can create new patterns of work for the future.
Strategic Planning vs. Tactical Planning
Tactical planning and strategic planning are very often confused with one another, but they operate in completely different scopes. Below we’ve provided a simple and clear explanation of how the two are unique.
Strategic planning highlights an organization’s top-level goals and what they want to achieve in the big picture. This will encompass both their goals and their overall vision to create a picture of what they want to achieve in the future. When developing strategic plans, top-level management collaborates on reports and goals to facilitate alignment and accuracy in their vision. Strategic planning is traditionally done above tactical planning and will influence how tactical planning unfolds.
Tactical planning is a more immediate strategy that impacts how teams achieve their strategic plan. It highlights small-level strategies and individual actions that teams take to actualize their strategic goals. Overall, tactical planning emphasizes short-term actions to follow through on overall strategic plans.
Through this analysis, we can see that tactical and strategic planning are related but operate through entirely different scopes. Hopefully, this helps clear up the difference and allows your team to effectively facilitate both.
Learn more: What is Strategic Planning?
Setting SMART goals and formulating a plan of action is key to effective tactical planning and can be the difference for teams in achieving their goals. If this guide helped you, try taking a look at IdeaScale Whiteboard to see how collaboration can help formulate and execute tactical planning.