Common Business

Common Sense Business Ideas and Information

What’s the difference between a goal, objective, strategy, and tactic?

with 4 comments

Business planning uses it fair share of jargon, but you would think that such simple terms like goal, objective, strategy, and tactic would be relatively simple to define and use. Proper use and implementation of these items are critical to the long term success of an organization. It’s amazing that there does not seem to be a single definition or understanding of each element. For success, everyone in the organization must be on the same page. To help clarify what each element means I will be using sports analogies as well as business examples. Sorry to you non sports people, but sometimes giving an example outside of the standard helps clarity.

Reaching your goals means building a strong foundation of objectives, strategies, and tactics.

Reaching your goals means building a strong foundation of objectives, strategies, and tactics.

When developing a goal, remember objectives, strategies, and tactics are the foundation that support and allow you to reach your goal. Unlike building a real pyramid, starting with the base, you start at the top with your goal and then you develop your objectives, then your strategies, and then finally your tactics. You move from the general to the specific.

Goals and objectives are usually the terms that are confused and used interchangeably. The goal is the overreaching success your organization is striving for and are more general than objectives.

Your goal should help clarify the mission you have for your organization.

Objectives are the devices used to measure the success or failure of the organization. The key word here is measurable. If your objective is not measurable you have a goal, not an objective. You will probably have multiple objectives linked to a each goal.

Strategies are the “how” to meet your objectives. Strategies start with words like employ, implement, develop, and add. Strategies are not as specific as tactics.

Tactics are where the rubber meets the road. Tactics get you one more level of specificity, as to what you are going to do to implement your strategies. After you develop the tactics you want to employ, you will need to develop action plans which are the, who is going to do what, to get your tactics executed. Action plans should include specific dates for each action to insure they are easy to follow up on.

Sports Example:
If you are an NFL team your goal could be to be the best franchise in the NFL. So your objective to reach that goal could be to to win the Super Bowl. Vary measurable, maybe not realistic. Another objective could be to increase your customer satisfaction at games by 10%. Again this is measurable, which is key.

Now you need to figure out how you are going to achieve your two objectives. The coaching staff says, “All we need to do is go to use a hurry up offence and switch to a three/four defense. This gives the organization two strategies to help reach the, “win the Super Bowl,” objective. There could be more objective, but to keep this simple I am using two.

Now the tactics , or  the how to reach the two strategies. The coach’s could use tactics like: use a run/pass quarterback, add additional tight ends to game plan, find athletes that run the forty in 4,5 seconds or less, switch to a press defense in the secondary, add tougher cardio conditioning program, etc.

Strategies to meet its objective of increasing customer satisfaction by 10% at games  could be enhance the in-stadium experience of the fans and be more family friendly at the concession stand.

The front office’s tactics for its strategies could be: have a cushion night, have special recognition for groups, add an additional jumbo-tron, create special family meals for the concession stand, add more healthy snacks to the concession stand menu, etc.

Business Example:
If you are a craft beer company your goal could be to be the leading seller of craft beer in its market. The objective to reaching the goal could be increase sales by 25%. As you can see, again, this objective is measurable.

To reach its objective the craft beer company could use the following strategies: add a new dark beer to the company’s line, expand its current sales territory, expand the types of outlets the beer is available, etc.

Potential tactics for the beer company: Add new dark beer offering to the line, become guest beer at local restaurants, make half barrel kegs available for distribution, use buy one get one free sales tactic, develop sampling program, print coasters for bars to use pushing your product, etc.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Well now I know what these things are now, but how do I decide what goal, objectives etc. my organization should be working towards?” The simple answer is your situation analysis will shape these… A topic for another post.


Written by John Marrinan

September 29th, 2014 at 8:28 pm

4 Responses to 'What’s the difference between a goal, objective, strategy, and tactic?'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'What’s the difference between a goal, objective, strategy, and tactic?'.

  1. […] you want to read more about the business principles around goals, objectives, strategies and tactics (GOST), there’s a good overview here. I’m skipping over Strategies because I’m trying to simplify this stuff, and I often […]

  2. thanks for this straightforward simple explanation


    29 Aug 16 at 11:39 am

  3. Outstanding post, I think people should learn a lot from this weblog its rattling user pleasant.
    So much good information on here :D.

  4. Hi there colleagues, how is everything, and what you desire to say about this post, in my view its actually awesome
    in favor of me.

Leave a Reply