Ten Tips for Aligning Strategy and Tactics

Many managers are expected to translate their organization’s Strategic Plan into a Tactical Plan, and then collaborate with other managers to ensure that the many tactical plans fit together into a coherent whole.

Operational and support teams in almost every organization grapple with this challenge. If you are in such a position, here are ten tips that will help you on your way…

  1. Understand your organizations strategy. REALLY understand it…the WHY, the WHAT and the high level HOW. There can be no room for misunderstanding here. Any misunderstanding at this level will be amplified many times as you translate the strategy into tactics. So go over it with your manager, and get answers to all the questions you have. Relay the answers to your team. Where there is no answer, relay that to your team also.
  2. Make sure you list out and understand the assumptions used in the high level strategy, such as the economic forecasts, and the direction that the industry/sector is expected to head in over the next 3 – 5 years. What if these assumptions prove false? What contingencies have been built into the plan?
  3. Strip away the verbage and work with your manager to explain the Strategic Plan in plain, simple language. If you MUST relay the exact words given to you, do so but accompany them wherever necessary with simply worded translations and examples…the “in other words…” piece – provide illustrative examples wherever possible.
  4. Play ‘catchball’ with the developing Tactical Plans. In other words, pass them back and forwards quickly between you, your team members and your manager as you develop your plan. Each pass should add meaning, clear up any misunderstandings that may arise, and add another layer of detail. Make tactical planning an iterative and cross-functional process…don’t get siloed!
  5. Develop a team scorecard to accompany your team tactics. Make the scorekeeping fun and try to make sure that the measures you use are such that you can track progress at the very least on a weekly basis. Any longer timeframe than that and it will go stale on you very quickly.
  6. Use visual tools that you can post on walls, bulletin boards, etc. to show your team’s plan, its linkage to other tactical plans and to the Strategic Plan. Show and illustrate progress to plan. The larger and more colorful the better. This is sometimes referred to as Visual Management or Open Book Management, and it creates tremendous energy in your team.
  7. Build project management skills within your team. These skills allow people to break the tactics down into action steps and schedules to get the job done. This is absolutely critical to departmental and cross-functional team success…and to help team members avoid burnout from key initiatives/projects that they must contribute to in addition to doing their regular job.
  8. Develop the personal skill of listening. One of the pioneers of quality improvement, W. Edwards Deming used to say “In God we trust, all others bring data”, but he also said “Data will provide you with about 3% of what you really need to know!” So you need to listen carefully for feedback on how the plan is progressing and not rely solely on the numbers.
  9. Stay flexible. Strategies change, and tactical plans need to change with them. Always stress alignment with the higher level Strategic Plan.
  10. Recognize effort AND results. This gives people a real reason to believe in the strategy and tactics, as well as believing in you and in each other.
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