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What is Strategy & Tactic Trees?

Identifying and communicating the right strategies and tactics are key to ensure limited management attention at all levels are synchronized and focused on the highest-priority changes needed to achieve the desired growth, stability and harmony objectives of an organization. Unfortunately, when we consider the low success rate of all organizational change initiatives (20—40%) and the fact that this high failure rate has not improved over time, it appears as if the application of traditional strategic planning and execution processes have not addressed the root cause(s) of the high failure rate.

The Strategy and Tactic (S&T) Tree was the last in a series of Theory of Constraints’ thinking processes invented and released by Dr. Goldratt into the public domain, specifically designed for helping top managers prevent the common mistakes that result in such a high failure rate of change initiatives within organizations.

As with many breakthroughs, this breakthrough started with a simple question:
If “Strategy” is really at the highest level of an initiative and define the direction that dictates all activities and the “Tactics” are lower down in an initiative and define all the activities that are needed to implement the strategy, then where do “Strategy” end and where do “Tactics” begin?

Dr. Goldratt realized that to answer this question, it required that the words “strategy” and “tactic” had to be defined more clearly than before. His new definitions were inherently simple, yet powerful. He decided to define “Strategy” simply as the answer to the question “What for?” (the objective of a proposed change) and “Tactic” as the answer to the question “How to?” (the best alternative to implement the proposed change). From these definitions, it is clear that every Strategy (What for) should have an associated Tactic (How to) and therefore Strategy and Tactic must always exist as “pairs” and must exist at every level of the organization.

From these definitions, it is clear that every Strategy (What for) should have an associated Tactic (How to) and therefore Strategy and Tactic must always exist as “pairs” and must exist at every level of the organization.

Therefore, the S&T can be viewed as simply a logical tree of the hierarchy of the high leverage changes and their implementation sequence that should be both necessary and sufficient to ensure the reliable achievement of the organizations improvement and growth targets. The Strategy of Level 1 represent the ambitious growth target of the organization, while the Tactic of Level 1 represents a summary of the main changes that top management should focus on and the rationale for their priority.

The Strategies and Tactics of level 2 represent the highest leverage changes required by the organization to successfully and sustainably achieve its ambitious growth target as defined in level 1. The nodes in level 2 of the S&T therefore represent the necessary and sufficient conditions for achieving level 1’s objective, with the sequence of implementation being from left to right. The sequence of these changes represents the main areas of focus for top management.

They can include:

  • Changes required to ensure minimum Compliance and/or Performance Sustainment (to protect current profitability)
  • Changes required to Build, Capitalize on and Sustain a first Decisive Competitive Advantage by better exploiting current capabilities and products/services
  • Changes required to reduce avoidable costs and/or investment
  • Changes required to Build, Capitalize on and Sustain a second Decisive Competitive Advantage (as a growth buffer) that will require elevation of current capabilities and products/services
  • Changes required to achieve Social Responsibilities targets.

However, defining the What For (Strategy) and How to (Tactic) of each change and how these changes are related in a hierarchical tree structure is only the first step. We know that any strategy and/or tactic are only as valid as the assumptions on which they are based. Therefore, it is the responsibility of managers at every level in the organization, to not only contribute to defining and communicating the Strategy and Tactic for each proposed change, but also to define and communicate the logic of the proposed change:

  1. why the proposed change is really necessary to achieve the higher level objective and ultimately the goal of the company,
  2. why they claim it is possible to achieve the objective (strategy) of the change (especially considering it has probably never been achieved before),
  3. why they claim their proposed change (tactic) is the best or even the only way of achieving the strategy of the change and finally,
  4. why the proposed change might not yet be actionable information – i.e. a warning they would give to their subordinates to ensure sufficiency of implementation of the proposed change

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