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What is the difference between a strategic plan and a tactical plan?

A strategic plan supports the organization's vision and mission statements by outlining the high-level plan to achieve both. Strategic plans generally provide the broad, long-term picture. In order to develop strategic plans, top management uses reports on finances, operations and the external environment to project future actions. Strategic plans influence the development of tactical plans.

A tactical plan answers "how do we achieve our strategic plan?" It outlines actions to achieve short-term goals, generally within a year or less. They are much narrower in focus and can be broken down into the departmental or unit level. Tactical plans outline what each department needs to achieve, how it must do so and who has the responsibility for implementation.

As an example, an HR strategic plan may include the following two strategic goals over the next five years with related tactical plans that include detailed actions.

Strategic goal: Recruit, develop and retain a high-quality and diverse staff.

            Tactical plan:

  • Obtain salary survey data to benchmark the compensation of all positions.
  • Conduct job fairs at local schools with diverse student bodies.
  • Develop an effective exit interview program to understand why high-performers leave the organization.
  • Conduct an employee survey to gather data on job satisfaction and engagement.
  • Provide effective in-house training for managers and supervisors and identify and allocate funds for external training. 

Strategic goal: Implement flexible work arrangements.

Tactical plan:

  • Identify the types of flexible work arrangements available and feasible for the workplace.
  • Survey employees to identify the flexible work arrangements of most interest.
  • Create policies and procedures for the flexible work arrangements that are implemented.
  • Review the strategic goal and related policies and procedures annually to meet changing circumstances.


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