What does the word “tactical” mean to you? It might conjure up images of heavily armed soldiers storming a building, a swarm of tanks overrunning enemy defenses, a squadron of aircraft dueling it out over the English channel. Tactics rhymes with execution, punch, getting things done.
Are you thinking tactically enough to win?
Most entrepreneurs have a big-picture idea of what they want, recorded in a business plan or vision document or a simple list of goals. But then the document stays in a drawer or on the hard drive as they stumble into reactive mode, day after day, and not accomplishing what they initially said they wanted.
Planning requires two levels of thinking: strategic and tactical. Strategic planning is vision-focused, the “who am I”, “what do I want to create” and “why is this important to me”. Strategic is longer term, one, three, five, ten years out. Strategic planning is important, because it gives a context and a purpose for action.
Tactical planning is goal-focused, the “how“, the detailed actions needed to move the yardstick forward toward the big vision.
Where the strategic plan can be done in the abstract, because it deals with possibilities and assumptions, the tactical plan is how we dance with reality, respond to the actual situation on the ground, execute to create results. Tactical plans are meant to be short term: created quickly, executed boldly, then superseded by the next tactical plan based on the new situation. Rapid execution of a succession of tactical plans moves you step by step towards realizing the overall strategic plan.
For the entrepreneur, thinking tactically means creating a daily, execution-focused, tactical plan.
When I attended the Canadian Forces Staff School course in the early ’90s as a junior Air Force captain, I learned how to prepare a tactical mission plan, using an acronym I still remember today: SMEACS. Applied to your daily tactical plan, this means:
- S = Situation: What is my current status with respect to today’s operation? (the starting point)
- M = Mission: What is the Specific/Measurable/Audacious/Real/Time-lined (SMART) goal I must achieve today? (the result)
- E = Execution: What are the tasks and steps that need to be completed to get it done? When will I do this (put in today’s calendar)
- A = Administration/Logistics: What resources (tools, supplies) do I need to get it done? Where do I get these resources? How much money/time will I need to get them?
- C = Command: Who do I need to connect with to get it done? (collaboration, authorization, support, accountability)
- S = Signal: Who do I need to communicate with to get it done? (E-mails, telephone calls, letters)
To think tactical, focus on one primary project where you want to create a measurable result in the next 24 hours. Draw up a simple tactical plan in point form using the SMEACS format, so it is easy to keep in your head or on a single piece of paper.
For example, let’s say that my Strategic focus at the moment is to write my book. Today’s Tactical plan would be:
- S = Situation: I’m now at Chapter Two of my Ten-Chapter manuscript.
- M = Mission: Today’s mission is to create a rough draft in point form of Chapter Two in the next 24 hours.
- E = Execution: 1. Make a list of two dozen sub-points I want to include in the chapter; 2. reorganize into eight major points; 3. complete each major point by breaking it down into ten to twelve sub-points; 4. post it on the wiki; 5. dedicated writing times today: 9am to 10:30am (eight major points) and 8pm to 10pm (expanded sub-points)
- A = Administration/Logistics: 1. Make sure laptop is charged up and backed up before starting; 2. morning session at Starbucks after spin class, evening session at home (wash dishes first).
- C = Command: 1. coordinate with Thomas for a brainstorming call (suggest 9am).
- S = Signal: 1. confirm with Annie for feedback from Chapter 1 (e-mail); 2. send note to Mastermind group after morning and evening sessions informing that the wiki is updated.
As you execute your tactical plan, you will find that instead of feeling that you are running around in circles reacting to your environment, you will now be in control, act more deliberately, and get much more done. Being tactical puts you in charge of the momentum.
Strategy points you in the right direction. Tactics ensures you do the right things right now, so you can win at creating the future you really want.
For more information
This post was inspired by “Rip Up Your Five-Year Plan” by Ian Sanders, BNET Insight http://blogs.bnet.com/smb/?p=145
Image Credit: Tactical Bacon is a real product! Image from http://www.thinkgeek.com/caffeine/wacky-edibles/c399/