In a simple world people often try to link strategy directly to action plans without any concept of tactics. In a complex world we need a middle piece that lets us accomplish much more than we could ever do by going directly from strategy to action. Duplicability is the key for large complicated efforts.

I define tactics as results produced by uniquely combined resources and capabilities. The tactician then is looking for unique ways to combine available resources and capabilities to produce new and hopefully desirable results. These tactics are the tools of strategists and provide an arsenal of results for the strategist to create patterns from.

The strategist creates a pattern with available defined results that together serve to achieve a goal within the given circumstances. The pattern of results is a strategic plan. The strategist doesn’t need to understand or to account for every detail, the tacticians and operations experts have already proven what can be expected from the given tactics and operational ability.The strategist can operate with a level of abstraction that doesn’t disconnect her from hard cold reality.

Tactics provide a formula for duplicating specific results that can be applied over and over to compounded effect. They also give the strategist some abstraction from the details without sacrificing results. In other words the General doesn’t need to know who is driving the tank to know with a degree of confidence what results he can expect from deploying a tank battalion.

Operations, then, is the execution of tactics with specific people and specific equipment applied to specific scenarios. Operational ability defines the tempo of execution.Tactics executed consume resources which must be replenished. The ability to replenish those resources determines the operational tempo. This applies also to people who burn out if overworked.

I’m not saying that these are the definitions of these terms set in stone by Sun Tzu or any other historical luminary. But I am saying that this is a very useful way to make strategy available to a large number of people efficiently and effectively and to create more success in an increasingly complicated world.


Ron B Palmer
Ron B Palmer

Ron B Palmer is an internationally recognized expert on IT Service Management who also writes on strategy as it applies universally irrespective of its application in business, war, or politics. Ron’s approach is grounded in concepts such as quality, systems theory, complexity, fractals, and Economics. Ron holds the ITIL Service Manager and ITIL Expert certifications as well as numerous ISO/IEC 20000 certifications.