Strategic or Tactical

by Jean Tower


Schools have a bit of a lull from now until we return after Thanksgiving. During this period I will be reposting blog posts from the past. I will pick posts that I think are still relevant or entertain in some way. Enjoy the upcoming Thanksgiving break!


Do you spend more time visioning and planning the future or coping with the problems of today? Are you constantly putting out fires, or are you creating a technology infrastructure and department that prevents fires? I strive for a balance – I need to be concerned about and help with the issues my users are concerned with today, or they won’t care what I am trying to put in place for the future. In other words I know I have to be tactically credible to be strategically effective. The secret is to find the right balance.

What is tactical? It is

  • usually concerned with short-term,
  • narrowly focused, and is
  • often hands-on.

What is strategic? It is

  • signified by a long-term view,
  • broad focus, and an
  • enterprise perspective.

I’m stuck in tactical mode when I spend the day fixing the server backup, training someone to access the data warehouse, purchasing a printer, or balancing my accounts. I’m operating in the strategic realm when I am working on the long-range technology plan, mentoring within my department, building consensus to adopt a content management system for our web site, writing a grant, or planning my budget request for next year.

Of late, I have felt like I am mired in urgent user issues and dealing with daily deadlines, and not making enough progress against long-term goals. However, in examining the short-term, urgent items on my desk, I find that at least some of them are rooted in long-term, important strategies. It certainly helps my outlook to spend a little time each day reflecting on what I accomplished toward long-range goals and strategies.

I find I do my best work when I constantly shift my focus, from a wide-angle lens, planning for the future effectiveness of the organization, to a microscopic lens, fixing a tiny detail in roll up your sleeves fashion. Striking a balance between the two perspectives is the very thing that enables each of us, in our jobs as technology (or education, or both) administrators, to keep our eye on the distant horizon and while watching our steps in the moment.

If you have a tip for achieving a balance between the two, I’d love to hear it.


Originally posted November 2009

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