Strategic, Tactical, Operational level

You can create a Communication Plan at Strategic Level, Tactical Level or Operational Level. Each level has a different ambition about what effect you want to achieve, including a different salary and a different vision of communication, different skills and other instruments that you can use. Below I have put some things in a scheme in catchwords.

MottoDo things.Do things right.Do the right things.
Your roleDoer.Organiser.Thinker.
Function in the Organisation of the CommunicationImplement.Manage.Policy. Leadership. Direction.
Basic questionWho does what, when and what is needed for this?How should we do it? What should we do?
Focus Communication means (advertisement, flyer, webpage etc.), possibly combined in Campaign.Campaign, based on Analysis and Evaluation.Relationship with stakeholders.
Horizon Here and now.Finite period (closed with deadline).Endless.
Effect Knowledge, attitude, behaviour.Knowledge, attitude, behaviour.Creating value for the organisation.
Open / Closed end Closed end Closed end Open end
Contribution to Production processDo PlanAnalyse
Your skills Styling, writing, speaking, etc.Organising, negotiating, etc.Organising, negotiating, etc.
Your experience Starter.3 years experience.10 years experience.

What is ‘Long-Term’, ‘Strategic’?

It is generally assumed that ‘Strategic’ is about the ‘Long-Term’, ‘Operational’ is about the ‘Short-Term’ and ‘Tactical’ is in between. ‘Tactical’ connects the long-term and the short-term.

At the organisational level, three years is considered ‘long-term’ but in the 20th century 5 or 10 years was found ‘long-term’, e.g. in Europe. In the United States, a period is already considered ‘long-term’ when it exceeds a year or even a quarter. In Asia people tend to think in generations.

So, how can we define (operationalise) ‘long-term’?

If the period of time is not measurable, I call it ‘long-term’: Strategic Level. Then there is an ‘open end’.

Challenge: harmony

The three levels must be in harmony with each other and if you work on one level, you must always consider the other two levels.

Challenge: from Strategic to Operational

It is difficult to go from strategic to operational level. Thinking at a strategic level is reasonably theoretical, not very concrete and there is no end date. Operational, on the other hand, is about the here and now, is very concrete and has a very clear moment when means and the measuring of effects should be realised. This is about the transition from Thinking to Doing.

Traditionally, therefore, the strategic level and strategic thinking better suits the left hemisphere of the brain; the operational level fits to the right hemisphere of the brain.

Communication between the hemispheres of the brain is said to be difficult. For example, people whose left hemisphere of the brain is dominant think that creative, holistic people are strange. People whose right hemisphere is dominant think that people who are analytical, rationally minded, are strange. And when you as an individual have to switch from strategic, analytical to operational creative thinking, you will also feel this is difficult to do.

An important communicative challenge is therefore to make the different halves of the brain communicatie; both between people and within a person.

Continuity of Organisation, like cycling to work

An organisation (company) maintains relationships with its environment and strives for continuity, it does not want to ‘fall over’. Just as you as an individual don’t want to fall over when you ride a bicycle. That is why you must constantly monitor your environment, maintain sufficient speed and adjust it. Just as an organisation should innovate sufficiently and steer its course in order to survive in an ever-changing environment.

Photo by Snapwire on

You can now apply the three levels to cycling to work:

  • Operational
    • Focus on here and now. To do.
    • Move with your legs, etc. Keep balance.
    • Organisation: Operational excellence. Getting better at what you do.
  • Tactical
    • Focus on closed end. Think about: ‘Are there other ways to reach my goal in time?’.
    • Reach the office at 8:15 AM so you are ready for the first meeting at 8:30 AM. Pass the traffic lights on time (KPI’s); maintain sufficient speed (dashboard).
    • Organisation: Organise the process as well as possible, manage what needs to be done.
  • Strategic
    • Focus on open end. Think about: Am I doing the right thing? Should I take the bus or car? Do I have/ want to go to this meeting? Do I have/ want to go to work? What do I really want? What ar my capabilities? Can’t I use my cycling skills for something better? (Going on a cycling holiday, cycling to a nicer job, cycling as a job, etc.)
    • Organisation: Pursue the right goals and values.

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