Complete Guide to Tactical Planning (Plus Benefits and FAQs)
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Tactical planning helps teams achieve short-term business goals and objectives by turning strategies into actionable steps. Businesses may develop a tactical plan as part of a longer-term vision or to address immediate concerns, such as reduced cash flow. If you're in a leadership position, you may like to learn more about the key elements of a tactical plan. In this article, we define a tactical plan, list steps to develop your own, identify the benefits of using a tactical plan and provide answers to commonly asked questions about this type of planning.
What is tactical planning?
Tactical planning is a method of achieving short-term goals and objectives through a clearly defined set of actions. The aim of a tactical plan may be to solve a problem, such as a decrease in customer traffic or to meet a new objective, such as increasing your monthly production of goods. A tactical plan typically has a short-term focus, between a few months and a year, though it may contribute to a business's longer-term vision.
Those in mid-level departments are often responsible for managing a tactical plan. Alongside their team, they may identify problems to solve, define goals and strategies and assign actionable tasks to departments or individual employees. Once the plan has a written outline, teams may regularly measure their progress and identify alternative strategies if they aren't meeting their goals.
6 steps to develop a tactical plan
You may follow these steps when implementing your own tactical plan:
1. Use a SWOT analysis
SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. A SWOT analysis can help you address a specific problem or identify areas for business growth. It may be useful if you're unsure what short-term goals to set and how to implement a strategy to achieve them.
A SWOT analysis encourages you to think creatively and develop specific strategies with clear outcomes. You might create a document with these four headings and brainstorm responses with your team. Once you identify an opportunity, you can find a solution and prepare a tactical strategy.
Read more: SWOT Analysis Guide (With Examples)
2. Define objectives and goals
Tactical plans require you to identify a clear objective or goal. This is often a short-term goal that you may achieve within several weeks or months. The acronym SMART, which describes goals as specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound, may help you decide which goals to pursue. An example of a medium-term SMART goal might be to double business profits within 12 months.
You can reduce this goal into smaller, more immediate goals, which you may achieve through a tactical plan. For instance, you might develop a strategy to attract 10% more customers to the company's online website over the next month. As you identify objectives, you might also consider the company's overall vision. This may ensure that your short-term actions help you achieve larger goals, such as becoming an industry leader.
Read more: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples
3. Consider resources
Alongside a clear goal, tactical plans also require resources. This could be human resources, raw materials, technology, equipment or finances. Each stage of your plan is likely to require a unique combination of resources.
For instance, trying to increase the brand's online presence may require a new employee or contractor with more advanced computer skills. It may also involve training costs to help employees navigate a new or upgraded website. Knowing which resources your plan requires and their associated costs can help you choose cost-effective strategies.
4. Delegate actions
Team members are key to the success of a tactical plan. To meet goals, it's essential each employee knows what the strategies are and the series of actions they require. Being clear about an end goal may help maximise resources and avoid confusion and distraction. You may also consider current workloads and levels of productivity so that you have realistic expectations of what the team can achieve.
As a leader, delegating tasks to the appropriate department or qualified individual is essential. This means employees can address tasks simultaneously. Sometimes, your goal may require you to prepare actions in a linear form, including identifying which tasks to complete before others can begin. For instance, it may be necessary for the human resources department to find new employees before you can increase your production volume.
5. Define a timeline
Unlike a company vision, objectives in tactical plans require a strict timeline. This could be a timeline across several weeks or months. However long your timeline is, it's beneficial to identify a specific date, helping you prioritise individual tasks.
You may also specify short timelines for each task. For example, if your task is to sell company merchandise, you might allow three weeks to design and manufacture the product. A timeline helps you identify if you've spent too much time on a specific task. This may prompt you to consider alternative actions or to reassess your priorities. When you reach your final date, you can review your progress and more easily determine your level of success.
6. Consider alternative strategies
Many external and internal factors can affect a tactical plan, such as a change in consumer demand or a suddenly unavailable resource. This means a tactical plan often involves uncertainty. Its success may require creativity and problem-solving. Developing alternative strategies can prepare you for potential problems or delays.
For example, an alternative to hiring a new employee with the right qualifications might be training an existing employee with transferable skills. Presenting new solutions may help keep team members positive and motivated to reach their goals.
Benefits of a tactical plan
Here are some reasons you may benefit from a tactical plan:
A tactical plan can be an effective step toward reaching a longer-term vision. It simplifies objectives by turning strategies into a series of achievable tasks. For instance, a restaurant owner may decide to introduce two new dishes fortnightly. This diversifies their menu, attracts more monthly customers and increases their overall revenue. Following each step in your plan may help you reach both your short- and long-term goals.
As they focus on actions, tactical plans can provide employees with clarity and motivation. Following actionable steps helps teams and departments prioritise their work. It also ensures that each task contributes meaningfully to an overall strategy.
While tactical plans provide a clear pathway to a specific goal, they also allow you to be flexible. You may alter your plan in response to unseen obstacles or delays. If the plan isn't achieving the desired result, you may brainstorm alternative actions or pathways with your team.
Tactical plans promote company-wide involvement. They can lead to increased employee engagement and motivation. A tactical plan allows team members to collaborate and encourages them to think creatively. As they see tangible results from their actions, employees are likely to feel rewarded as they pursue the company's longer-term objective.
FAQs about tactical planning
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about tactical plans:
What's the difference between tactical and strategic planning?
Strategic planning focuses on a company's overall vision. It defines what the company may look like in its ideal state and identifies significant goals and objectives to get there. Unlike tactical plans, which directly involve employees, those at the highest level of an organisation typically undertake strategic planning. Both planning methods are essential to a business's success. While strategic plans provide a long-term pathway for a company to follow, a tactical plan motivates employees and gives them daily direction.
What businesses use tactical plans?
A tactical plan could benefit a business with one employee or an organisation with multiple departments. A tactical plan helps reach a specific short-term business goal, such as a cafe owner seeking to increase their daily coffee sales or a corporation that wants to adjust its public image. In both cases, a tactical plan helps identify strategies and specific actions. For instance, one strategy for the cafe may be offering every sixth coffee for free. An actionable step to achieve this might include designing a coffee card.
When can I use a tactical plan?
When you develop a tactical plan is likely to depend on your circumstance. As it's flexible and often quick to implement, you may use a tactical plan in response to an immediate problem or opportunity, such as a sudden decrease in online traffic. You might also develop tactical plans once other long-term planning is complete. You may start with a broad vision and make it achievable by identifying medium- and short-term goals. Implementing tactical plans at regular intervals may create deliberate action and is likely to contribute to the success of a company's objectives.
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