Tactics - The W´s of Who, When, With Which Wherewithal


                        DRAFT                                    DRAFT                                    DRAFT

Tactical Summary

  • Who should do it?  Who should be accountable?
  • When should it be done -- the deadline?
  • With which wherewithal - capital (the budget), internal resources, external ones and the tools, e.g. project management programs?


    The distinction between strategy and tactics has a long military tradition, from Sun Tzu´s The Art of War, 6th century B.C., and Alexander the Great (356 -323 B.C.) to Karl von Klauswitz (1780 - 1831) and modern contributors. Therefore beginning with two military distinctions seems reasonable: (1) The War and (2) The Battle. A third "civilian" viewpoint, The Grand Vision, is presented thereafter.

1) The War

    Karl von Klauswitz in his classic Vom Kriege (On War - 1832, posthumously) writes that strategy is the manner in which one puts together a series of battles to fight a war. These strategic decisions are taken before and during the war. One might refer to this concept as corporate or global strategy. Proactive decisions can be duly deliberated.


2) The Battle

    Klauswitz also makes the distinction that strategy is about where you should be for the battle, deploying what strength and when --  (land versus sea; attack versus defend; night versus day). These strategic decisions are taken before the battle. One might refer to this concept as local or sbu strategy. These proactive decisions are usually under more time pressure than for (1) above.


    Tactics concerns the grouping and movements of the forces used in the battle: army and navy; infantry and artillery and also the when, "here comes the cavalry." These reactive tactical decisions are taken throughout the battle. Speed - response time - becomes critical.

    To make these distinctions in the business world clearer, one may divide the running of a company into different functions. A common, albeit somewhat arbitrary, division is: Strategy & Organization, Marketing, Financial Management, Accounting and Controlling, Management Information Systems (MIS), Production, Legal and Human Resources.  Insert Box here, cf. p. 25 of "War Lords" - and cite source.


    In the above, strategy clearly drives the "where" decisions. However in practice the distinction is not that sharp. The most obvious crossover function is marketing. Marketing research and CRM may drive the "where" decision. The attrition of traditional customers and the appearance of new ones from unexpected geographical regions, industries or segments may cause a strategic shift. (This process may reflect "bottom-up" strategy formation.)

    Other functions can also drive strategy. The obvious catastrophe example is the legal department when the corporation is faced with a class action lawsuit (product recall) that threatens its very existence. Hence a major change in the company´s strategy may be imperative. (Ant-PPT)

    Production can also drive the "where" decision. A CEO has taken a strategic decision to lease the production equipment to the factory workers. They may now take the machines out of the factory and set up elsewhere. Although the machines are being operated by the original factory workers, production has, in effect, been outsourced.

    A number of the workers wind up re-locating in New Town, a market heretofore not fitting into the company´s strategy because of logistic constraints. With the new production configuration, the workers in New Town realize that a market opportunity in now exists if the company were to set up a distribution center there. They convince the CEO of this, and he acts accordingly. The unplanned and unforeseen consequences of the outsourcing have led to a bottom-up shift in strategy. 

    At the risk of stating the obvious, strategic decisions can be minor or major, just as tactical ones can. Leaving a remote, declining market, or abandoning a small segment of unprofitable customers are strategic decisions ("where to compete"). However they are not particularly important ones. Introducing multi-million Euro TV campaigns or deciding to build an entire new factory rather than replace antiquated production equipment, are, in contrast, extremely important decisions. The capital budgeting for these kinds of major projects requires the approval of senior management. Nevertheless they are not strategic, but tactical ("how to compete") decisions.

    The preceding sentence introduced a phrase "how to compete," or, more generally "how to get it done," which is an integral part of realizing The Grand Vision.


3) The Grand Vision

     In mundane terms, the What and the Where are determined in forming the strategy. Thereafter come the resultant tasks, the Who and the Wherewithal (resources). Making these decisions is the domain of tactics. It consists of the specific actions, sequences of actions, and schedules one uses to implement strategy. Strategy and tactics, as well as execution, are fluid. Therefore the When crosses these boundaries, running throughout.

    Since recorded history men have had Grand Visions as variegated as the cultures they have come from. Yet the tactics, the planning and scheduling, for these Grand Visions were remarkably consistent through the millennia. Certainly there were a multitude of quantum leaps and paradigm shifts in science, engineering and technology. However the quantum leap in planning and scheduling did not occur until well into the 1950s with the advent of PERT and CPM, supported by computers.

    Project management software for the planning and control of complex projects has followed a similar growth curve to other computer applications. This software has become the modern standard for the planning and scheduling of complex projects, i.e. for their tactics. It has become so common that one tends to forget the magnitude and complexity of the tactics, the planning and scheduling, of past gigantic projects. Six examples are:


(1) The Egyptian Pyramids -- over 4,000 years ago

(2) The Great Wall of China -- over 6,000 km (3,800 miles) long

(3) The Roman Aqueducts -- supplying Rome 300 million gallons of water daily

(4) The Chinese Armada  -- 800 ships circumventing the globe, 1421 (maybe)

(5) The Suez Canal -- on which 1.5 million people worked

(6) The Apollo mission to put a man on the moon, costing $170 to $220 billion


    The subpage "Megaprojects, worldwide, six excursions into economic history" gives a brief description of each of these awe-inspiring works. Its sister subpage "PERT, CPM & SPIDER" gives an introduction to project management software.


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