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Strategic vs Tactical Planning: How Are They Different?

Whether we’re talking about your business or personal goals, planning proves to be essential to success. It sets the general direction that we have to take. This gives us a roadmap of sorts by which we can assess our actions.

What you’ll usually hear about planning is strategic vs tactical planning. They’re both seen as necessary when it comes to attaining business or personal progress.


But to best utilize these, it’s important to know how they differ. We’ll talk about their differences in detail in this post.

strategic planning vs tactical planning


Strategic Planning vs Tactical Planning: A Definition


Differences between Tactics and Strategy


The main difference between the two is the timeline. While a strategic plan is considered long-term, a tactical plan is short-term. To get a deeper view of their differences, let’s look into the definitions:


  1. What Is a Strategic Plan?


A strategic plan is connected to an organization’s vision and mission statements. Therefore, it’s far broader and normally used by top management to determine the goals for their respective departments. Most importantly, it’s a prerequisite to a tactical plan.


  1. What Is a Tactical Plan?


A tactical plan is a more fleshed-out version of the strategic plan. It creates specific action goals based on the strategic plan so you can fulfill them.


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The Difference Between Strategic and Tactical Plan Creation

Because the goals and purpose of each plan are different, how you can create either will differ as well. Remember how we talked about how you need a strategic plan to create a good tactical plan?

We’ll walk you through the general plan creation process so you can see how it works.


Note that we have vastly simplified the process here. Planning is so much more than just listing things. There’s a lot of assessment, consultation, and discussion involved before anything can be finalized. But for both, there must be regular monitoring and evaluation. See the difference between the two below:


The Strategic Planning Process

Get started with strategic planning by following these steps:


  1. Think About What Your General Objectives Are. These are the focal points of strategic planning. You should reflect on the big things that you want to achieve for yourself or your organization. This is the ultimate (yet achievable) end goal, so to speak.
  2. Refine the Direction of Your Strategic Plan. You do this by asking yourself questions. What do you want to achieve? What are the priorities? Questions will help make your plan realistic.
  3. Identify the General Steps. This will be your strategic plan. Based on the first two steps, you’ll need to determine the general steps by which you can get to your objectives.


The Tactical Planning Process

Now that you have your strategic plan, you can now proceed to make the tactical plan:


  • Examine Your Strategic Plan. As you read through the strategic plan, think of the specifics on how you can achieve what’s written there. You don’t have to write anything down yet. Just prepare yourself for it.
  • Divide Your Long-Term Goals Into Smaller, More Manageable  Ones. We’re not done yet, but it should be becoming clearer what the specific actions will be.
  • Further, Break Down the Smaller Goals Into Specific Actions. The result of this will be the output of your tactical plan creation. It should include a timeline, resources, and skills needed to complete the action.


Strategic vs Tactical Planning: Examples

The biggest misconception that people have about both strategic and tactical planning is that it only applies to business. But the truth is, you’re probably doing it for yourself already and haven’t even realized it.

The only qualification that must be met is that there’s a goal upon which you’re basing your plans. 


In this section, we’ll show you that the output of these planning processes can look like many things. But for brevity, we’ll only include one “step” of the strategic plan instead of the whole thing.

We review an example of tactical planning and strategic planning at different scales below.


College Student

Our fictional college student is studying because they believe that education is important to leading a good life. But what does a good life mean to them? Here’s their attempt to map out the next few years of their journey. 


Strategy: I want to get a good job in my field of study within the next five years.



  • Maintain an average of at least 3.8 every semester.
  • Communicate with professors through email at least once a week.
  • Join an organization that will help me network in the field.
  • Get an internship or a part-time job in my field to build experience.


Small Startup

John Doe recently created a startup based on booming digital software. His goal is quick profitability, so he’s now looking at options on how to make that happen.


Strategy: I want to get my startup big and relevant enough to be acquired within the next four years.



  • Identify effective marketing efforts to help the word get out and improve brand recognition.
  • Hire a talented team with at least five years of experience to manage the day-to-day of the business.
  • Identify the unique selling proposition of the product to improve its attractiveness to the market.


Digital Infrastructure

A multinational company is faced with new competition that heavily invests in online marketing. This has caused their stocks to drop as the interest in the competition continues to grow:


Strategy: We want to build a more expansive digital infrastructure that will match that of the competition.




  • Identify the digital assets that need to be created or improved upon.
  • Invest in automation technologies such as chatbots to improve customer relations.
  • Hire influencers under an exclusive contract that will allow the company to penetrate new market segments.


Which Is More Important, a Strategic vs Tactical Plan?

Whether you’re using it for personal or business growth, the strategic and tactical plans coexist to be fully effective. Therefore, we can’t say that one is better than the other.

But in terms of when you can create one, the strategic plan will go first. As it will be the basis of your tactical plan, you want to clearly define your broader goals before going to more specific ones.


If we had to choose which was more important, it would depend on what was most relevant to your job description.

For example, a CEO would see more value in the strategic plan, while the head of the marketing department may find the tactical plan more useful.


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Tactical vs Strategic Planning: Different, But Essential Tools for Progress

It’s the peanut butter and jelly of the business world: one isn’t just as good without the other. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with the value of the good old PB&J,  it demonstrates how two things can complement each other.

We understand how decision-makers want to go straight to knowing about the specifics without setting general directions. But what is tactical planning in business without any appreciation of its strategic counterpart?


However, now that we’ve thoroughly discussed both, let’s do it the right way, shall we? That way, you can maximize the yield from your team’s efforts in your organization.

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