Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Balancing innovative change and ongoing reliable stability and consistency 3: tactical thinking, planning and execution 2

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on January 18, 2017

This is my third installment to a series in which I explore tactical and strategic approaches to business management and leadership, and best practices approaches for coordinately pursuing both as context dictates. See Part 1: a basic dilemma and Part 2: tactical thinking, planning and execution 1.

And as noted in Parts 1 and 2, I offer this series as a thought piece, and in large part in response to a specific high tech business, that for all of its product development, and marketing and sales success, has been whipsawed by ongoing failure in it executive leadership to move past a more strictly tactical approach, to manage and lead from an overall strategic vision. I strongly suggest reviewing those opening installments to put this continuation to them into clearer focus and context.

• I noted in Part 2 that tactics deals with the immediate here and now and with addressing currently faced needs and opportunities and of all sorts, where functionally localized and more immediate decisions and follow-through would be called for.
• And I added that good, effective tactics organize activities and resource use in support of them, to achieve best possible outcomes and as efficiently and at as low an overall risk and cost as possible.
• In contrast, and for purposes of a more strictly tactics-oriented discussion, I simplistically addressed strategy in Part 2 as a black box phenomenon with known inputs and outputs but with its internal processes hidden from view.
• And effective tactics and tactical approaches align with and fulfill strategy and its more overarching planning and goals. And that brings me very directly and specifically to the issues of alignment and what it is here, and that is the topic of this posting.

As an opening point of argument for this line of discussion, I note a set of points that can be easy to ignore in practice, and even when they are allowed for and acknowledged as valid in general principle:

• Alignment between here-and-now tactics, and overall strategy has to go both ways – with explicit thought and effort entering into that from both the strategist and the tactician sides.

This holds when the tactical processes in question are standardized as basic ongoing business processes in place – and tactical decision making is primarily a matter of determining precisely when and where and how to apply them as more routine operational patterns. This holds when the tactical processes in question are standardized in principle but rarely if ever needed or used in practice, as applies when rare event contingency plans have to be implemented, or when pre-considered Plan B alternatives have to be invoked and followed. This, I also add, applies when more genuinely one-off, ad hoc approaches are followed, and certainly when they are (perhaps only ex post facto) reconciled with the strategic planning and intent in place. And this applies when corrective remediation has to be carried out, as for example when recovering from a disruption or crisis in business operations.

Those making immediately here-and-now operational decisions should at least ideally, keep overall strategy and the overall functioning of the business in mind. And they should make every reasonable effort to keep their actions in alignment and both with other tactical decision making and follow-through efforts and with the larger strategic vision that is in place – so all of the functional areas of the business can function coordinately and with minimal confusion or uncertainty within or between them. But just as importantly, those who by title and position hold strategic planning responsibility, carry an obligation to strategically plan and with an at least minimal goal of also reducing and eliminating that confusion and uncertainty. This means their developing and maintaining a practical strategic approach: a strategic model that is framed and organized and presented in ways that make it easier for tactical planners and their functional teams to work, and to work together. That, or rather a failure in that level and direction of alignment, is precisely where the case study example offered in Parts 1 and 2, can be found to break down.

And this brings me to the issues and questions of what the strategic process is – inside of the black box cartoon simplification of Part 2, where the strategic side of this alignment has to arise and take place. I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will at least begin to explore that. And then, as noted in parts 1 and 2, I will move on in this narrative to discuss the questions of identifying disconnects here, and as early as possible when they do arise. And I will consider and discuss startups, as a business context where founding executives can find themselves facing learning curve challenges in understanding and addressing the issues that I raise here. And to round out this anticipatory to-address note for now at least, I will return again to my starting case study example for this series, to consider lessons learnable and remediative approaches that might be possible for that business – and at least some of the trade-offs that would have to be resolved in that too. That, in anticipation of discussion to come, is where some very specific, crucial negotiations-related issues enter into this series’ narrative.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory.


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