Management Definitions: What Are the Differences Between Vision, Strategy and Tactics?

Annalena Simonis, Thursday 15 April 2021 | Reading time: 3 min.

Do you know the exact difference between the terms vision, strategy and tactics? In this article you will learn why it is important to distinguish between these basic terms of goal management and how they are defined.


"If you don't know where you're going, don't be surprised if you end up somewhere else." - Mark Twain


Whether in project planning or in business management, for reliable decision making you will need some predefined parameters. In practice, three elementary concepts are constantly confused in this context. Where are the differences between vision, strategy and tactics? It is important to know where the boundaries between these terms lie and where they intertwine in order to gain a basic understanding of normative goal setting in organizations. Moreover, this basic knowledge is very useful when you need to prioritize operational tasks. The interplay of these concepts can be represented in a hierarchical pyramid. In this article, we will explain the definitions of the three terms clearly enough that you won't need to look them up in the future again.

Graphic: Strategy pyramid ©InLoox GmbH

 Graphic: Strategy pyramid ©InLoox GmbH



The vision describes the major, overarching, long-term goal. Where do you want to go? What do you want to achieve? It describes the ideal state you want to work toward. Within a company, the vision has several valuable functions. A strong vision enables employees to identify with the company and be more motivated to work on their tasks. Having a vision is elemental to knowing what you are actually working towards and for. It therefore also has a strong orientation function. Accordingly, every management decision should be based on the question: "Does this help me to realize my vision?” You can think of the vision as a compass that points the way. It doesn't change much, if at all, and provides a lasting direction.

The vision is the overarching, enduring goal you strive for.



Now that you know where you want to go, you need to figure out HOW to get there. The strategy defines the way you want to achieve the vision. In business practice, it often deals with the questions of which markets to invest in, which target group to address, or how the company positions itself externally. Strategic goals provide the framework for action in the organization. They provide a medium-term orientation but must also be agile. After all, if the environment changes, whether due to new customer needs or market trends, companies must be able to adapt respectively. However, frequent strategy changes should also be avoided, because if you change paths too often, you will end up getting nowhere.

The strategy is the decision on which path is best to reach the vision.



To respond successfully to unexpected developments, organizations need the ability to readjust spontaneously. Short-term measures which aim on following the defined strategy day after day are called tactics. An example: A marketing department has a strategy to increase visibility among the audience through targeted communication via Facebook. However, it turns out that the actions on this platform do not lead to satisfying results, so they decide to change tactics and try to reach the target group on Instagram. Tactics, unlike version and strategy, are much more reactive and can change at short notice.

Tactics are the individual actions you take to ensure you're making progress on your strategy path to get closer to your vision in the long run.



You want to read more about goal setting and prioritization? Click here for more blog posts on these topics:

How to Prioritize Daily Personal Tasks Using the 1-2-3 Method

Be Successful With SMART Goals

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