Strategic Planning is a course of action that the manager takes to achieve one or more of the organization’s goals. Strategy can also be defined as “A general direction set for the company and its various components to achieve a desired state in the future. Strategy results from the detailed strategic planning process”.
Strategy for clear objectives, undeniably, is one of the most critical factors that determines the success or failure of a business or organization. The importance of right objectives and the strategy to achieve them for any business can be understood from Filippo Passerini’s words in the Wall Street Journal where he says, “Having the right strategies now is so important because if you happen to be wrong, you will derail within months.”
There are several schools of thought on this subject and multiple acronyms have been coined. We have the Objectives and Key Results or the OKR management model, as it is popularly known.
“OKRs” stands for “Objectives and Key Results.” This is a collaborative goal-setting tool used by individuals and teams to aim at challenging and ambitious goals with measurable results. OKRs management is a methodology of tracking progress, creating alignment, and encouraging engagement around measurable goals. OKRs was the brainchild of Andy Grove at Intel who shared it with John Doerr. Several companies including Allbirds, Netflix Apartment Therapy and nonprofits like Code for America have adopted it since then.
We also have the SMART Objectives model where the objectives are Specific, Measurable w/Measurement, Achievable, Relevant and Time Oriented.
Specific answers the question “what is to be done?” “How will you know it is done?” and describes the results of the work to be done.
Measurable w/ Measurement answers the question “How will you know it meets expectations?” and describes the objective using measurable parameters.
Achievable answers the question “ Can the person do it?” or “Can the objective be achieved with the available resources and within the deadline?”
Relevant answers the question “Should this be done?”
Time -Oriented answers the question “When will it be done?”
Once the Smart Objectives are set up correctly, it provides a structured roadmap for achieving the same.By starting out with SMART objectives, a project or program or plan can periodically and meaningfully measure progress, mark milestones and identify opportunities for improvement.
We also have Rich Horwath’s GOST (Goals, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics) Framework which is implemented at several companies. In this blog , we will discuss the GOST model in detail.
Goals, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics, all these four words are very common and are often used interchangeably in day-to-day business world. However each of these words have distinctly different meanings and knowing the difference between them is crucial while making a business plan. Renowned consultant Rich Horwath’s in his book ‘Elevate’ offers the GOST framework for better clarity and understanding of the terms. ‘Gost’ here is an acronym for goals, objectives, strategies and tactics, and the framework helps in understanding the difference between each of the terms in the acronym. Emphasising the need for strategic thinking for success of a business and the importance of being able to distinguish the commonly confused terms, Horwath writes, “Perhaps due to its abstract nature, strategy tends to mean different things to different people. It’s often confused with mission, vision, goals, objectives, and even tactics.”
In the context of business planning, the first step is to identify a goal which is followed by objectives that would lead to the achievement of the goal. After the goals and objectives are identified, the next step is to determine the strategy which is accompanied by tactics. While goals and objectives are in reference to ‘what’ in the strategic planning process, strategy and tactics related to ‘how’ within the process.
To clarify the distinction between Goals, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics, Horwath gives following examples;
Goal: Win the national sales contest for our region.
Objective: Achieve $25 million in sales by the end of the third quarter of this year.
Strategy: Focus selling efforts on expanding the share of wallet with current customers.
Tactics: ave district sales managers work with sales reps to schedule appointments with the top five customers for each territory. Prepare a sell sheet showing dollarized value of using the products in combination.
The Elements of The GOST Framework
Strategy: Strategy is one of the most commonly misused terms in context. Strategy is all about long-term planning. It is about advance planning of at least three-four steps and having a long term perspective. The origin of the word strategy is linked with Greek ‘strategos’ and refers to the art of winning battles. In the context of business, strategy is a tool to keep running and growing a company, managing product lifecycle, or managing customer-base. Strategy is defined as “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim”. It is one of the most crucial aspects of successful business operations. An important function of strategy, particularly for businesses in a dynamic environment is to keep the focus centred towards the right direction while having the bigger picture in mind.
Goal Vs Objective: Goal is defined as a broad plan towards which the actions are directed. It mainly concerns the destination. Objectives are strategies or stage by stage action items that help in attaining a goal. While both goals and objectives broadly refers to a desired outcome, the difference between the terms lies in the time frame and their effects.
Strategy Vs. Tactics
A renowned ancient Chinese General Sun Tsu clearly differentiated Strategy from Tactics when he said “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. But tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”. Tactics in a way describes ways to achieve the strategy. No matter how tactically you plan your moves if they are not aligned to the strategy business is likely to fail. A lack of strategy, in fact, is considered to be the number one cause of business failures.
Tactics are small or stepwise tasks needed to achieve goals laid out in a strategic plan. The most commonly perceived difference between strategy and tactics is that strategy is long term while tactics is short term. However, the real difference lies in the way in which the goals and objectives will be achieved using tactics and strategy. Strategy concerns the general ways, the overall “how” to achieve the goals while tactics refers to more specific ways of achieving the same.
Benefits Of The GOST Model
The benefit of using the GOST model is that one gets to know the sequence of decisions points. As Horwath puts it, “If strategy is not determined before tactics, there is no way of intelligently changing course when objectives and their corresponding milestones are not being achieved.”
Whether an organisation uses OKRs management, SMART objectives or Goal Objective Strategy Tactic model, the intent is more or less the same. The aim is to have a clear roadmap for the future course of action. Alignment of objectives with the right strategy is imperative for achieving organisational goals. If the right strategy is not in place one is bound to fall for tactical roulette, where the dependence is purely on tactics and not the strategy to reach a desired goal tactic. This will lead to creation of a dead plan and a recipe for failure.