You are a babysitter.
A family has asked you to take care of their children for a period of time. There are three children in the household. One is named Objective (also known as Goal), another is called Strategy, and the last child is named Tactics.
When you walk through the back door (the front door is reserved for long-time friends and neighbors), the parents greet you briefly and hand you a set of keys, important phone numbers and verbal notes before rushing out the door for an important event.
You see that Objective, the eldest of the three, is sitting firmly on the couch in the living room, watching television. Strategy is walking around at a distance, watching Objective closely. He does not like the show currently playing on the screen and is contemplating how he can convince his sibling to change the channel.
You suggest to Strategy that he should talk to his sibling Tactics and work together to come to a solution and initiate a plan of action. Strategy follows your advice and tells Tactics that he wants to watch TV, but Objective is in charge of the remote and he does not want to ask her to change the show. Sparked by Strategy, Tactics walks up to her older sister and requests that the channel be changed.
You are not surprised when Objective does what her younger sister asks of her. Their parents mentioned to you before they left that Objective does not, in fact, have a favorite television show at the moment, but she likes to spend many hours a day in front of a television screen for entertainment. (Her parents also told you that a few years ago they thought about enrolling her in sports programs but decided that the schedule was too burdensome).
You are a marketer.
A corporation has given you the responsibility of adhering to, formulating and implementing its objective, strategy and tactics. You are tasked to support and develop the “children of the corporation” in order to enhance the growth and success of the business or “household”. There is always a chance that if you do not understand all three “children”, a wrong action may be taken and the harmony of the business may be disrupted and lead to disaster.
What can you do to avoid a household disaster? Read on to learn more about the differences between an objective, a strategy and tactics.
- Objective: An objective can be “something you are trying to do or achieve: a goal or purpose” (Source: Merriam-Webster). In the babysitting example above, Objective’s goal was to watch television in order to entertain herself for the duration of the day. Your objective as a babysitter was to keep the children safe and the household free from disaster for the duration of the night. Another example of an objective is that your company, a large shoe chain, wants to be the most interactive shoe business on social media in the month of September.
- Strategy: A strategy, on the other hand, is “a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal, usually over a long period of time” (Source: Merriam-Webster). Another definition of strategy is similar to the one above but considers for-profit objectives. As MindTools.com mentions in the “Key Points” section in What is Strategy? The Three Levels of Strategy, strategy is “determining how we will win in the period ahead”. Therefore, strategy is a plan to achieve a specific purpose while an objective is the purpose itself. For example, one objective of a company may be to increase the number of registered customer accounts on their website by 15% in the month of November. To achieve this objective, the company could formulate and implement a digital marketing strategy.
- Tactics: What then, are tactics? Tactics are the “art or skill of employing available means to accomplish an end” or “a system or mode of procedure” (Source: Merriam-Webster). In relation to objective and strategy, tactics are taking specific actions that are part of a strategy and are a means to accomplish a specific objective, but not the plan itself. To extend on the strategy example in the previous point, creating multiple social media accounts is one tactic of a digital marketing strategy, but it is also a means to reach the objective of increasing the number or registered customer accounts.
In conclusion, if you are a babysitter, a corporate marketer or have another role, understanding and being able to differentiate between each of the three concepts of objective, strategy and tactics will help you be a more successful strategic planner in your personal and professional environments.