Recovering the divide : a review of strategy and tactics in business and management

Mackay, David and Zundel, Mike (2017) Recovering the divide : a review of strategy and tactics in business and management. International Journal of Management Reviews, 19 (2). pp. 175-194. ISSN 1460-8545 (

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With origins in military history, strategy and tactics is a frequently used conceptual couplet in the business and management literature. This paper reviews how strategy and tactics are portrayed, identifying a dominant ‘pragmatic’ account of strategy as an expression of formal, planned ends achieved through the subordinate means of tactics. Pragmatic distinctions give rise to a range of well-known problems, in particular in strategy implementation stages. We suggest that some of these problems may be avoided when the strategy–tactics relationship is conceived differently. We elaborate two alternative distinctions: a sociological framing of tactics as mechanisms of resistance to formal, controlling strategies; and a processual perspective, which sidesteps fixed distinctions between tactics and strategy, giving rise to more fluid interrelations between both modes. Based on a review of the business and management literature, we identify key examples of each trope and conclude by drawing insights for each account on the basis of these wider discussions.