How to Be Urgent with the Tactic and Patient with the Strategy

I attended a “Jamie Clarke” keynote earlier this year and was struck by a number of things he said and how they apply to business.

Clarke is a fellow Calgarian who has summited Mt. Everest twice, climbed the Seven Summits, written a few books, and is the CEO of Live Out There Ltd. He was a very engaging speaker with a ton of life experience and wisdom.

Of the topics he covered in his keynote, there was one statement he made that every business leader needs to practice:

“Be urgent with the tactic and patient with the strategy”

It is really easy to get stuck on one side of this equation and forget about the other. Some people gravitate towards tactics and are always busy but never really “move the ball forward.” Other people are so focused on creating a legendary strategy that they don’t get anything practical done!

About 10 years ago, my son and I decided to build a remote-controlled submarine. We talked through some ideas, drew up a few conceptual plans but never really had a solid strategy in place before we went a bought a bunch of parts from Lowes. Once we had the parts, we went into full-on build mode.

We had a ton of fun while we created an amazing submarine prototype that ended up having so much buoyancy it probably could have floated a full-sized car! We were too focused on tactics and should have stepped back and built a solid design strategy!

In the end, after a lot of discussion and some quick Google searches, we discovered it was way cheaper to just buy a remote-controlled submarine online. However, we still have yards of white PVC pipe glued together somewhere in the shed as a reminder of our glaring failure!

We often hear that execution eats strategy for breakfast or that action without strategy pointless . . . So what is the answer?

Is it Tactics or Strategy?

I believe that is not “either or”, rather it is a perfect balance of both! Here is my reasoning:

  1. Firstly, a clear strategy is necessary to ensure that there is alignment with all the stakeholders. This can be frustrating as people just want to get going. However, without a clear picture of where you are going, everyone will be headed in the direction they believe is best and chaos will result! Patience with the strategy is a requirement at this step.
  2. Secondly, the strategy must be flexible. The one thing we can all agree on is that we are all faced with constant change. Consequently, the strategy must be flexible and adaptable. We must be able to pivot and adjust the strategy when things around us change! Without this flexibility, the strategy will end up leading us in the wrong direction! Patience with the strategy is also a requirement at this step.
  3. Thirdly, once the strategy is in place, the team must begin to execute. This is where the urgency comes in. Being urgent with the tactic at this point is critical to deliver on the strategy.
  4. Finally, urgently delivering on the tactical can be tiring. It can make us lose sight of the strategy. This is where clear and constant communication is critical and again patience with the strategy is a requirement.

So the answer is not tactics or strategy. It is not strategy or execution. It is a proper balance between them, remembering that we must “be urgent with the tactic and patient with the strategy.”

Take Action

Where are you and your business at with tactics and strategy? Take a honest look at the performance of your business. Do you have a clear and flexible strategy? Are your staff aware of this strategy and are they delivering on the tactical aspects of it?

Spend some time this week and decide if there are changes that you need to make to ensure that your strategy is well defined, flexible, and communicated clearly. Then make sure that your team are urgently delivering on the tactical aspects of the strategy!

Finally, review these related posts:


There is no magic power in having a dream. You can’t just wait for it. You have to work for it. And you need to have a strategy that gives direction and focus to that work.” John C. Maxwell


What are your experiences with strategy and tactics that would provide value to other readers? Leave your comments below!


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