<<>> How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.
Niels Bohr

Strategy & Tactic (S&T) trees

The introduction by Dr. Eli Goldratt in 2002 (Goldratt 2002) of a “new” TOC-based Thinking Process called a “Strategic & Tactics” Tree (S&T) is being viewed by more and more executives and managers who have been exposed to it, as one of the most important breakthroughs in ensuring that holistic business or organization strategies are defined, properly validated, communicated and implemented to achieving harmony within organizations. The S&T, they believe, can for the first time provide them with a practical process and logical structure for defining and communicating all the necessary and sufficient changes as well as the sequence of implementation of these changes to achieve more goal units for the organization – not just What to change, but more importantly, What not to change and especially How To implement the changes and Why.

As with many breakthroughs, this breakthrough started with a simple question by Dr. Eli Goldratt: If “Strategy” is really at the highest level of an initiative or organisation and defines the direction that dictates all activities, and “Tactics” are lower down in an initiative or organisation and define the activities that are needed to implement the Strategy, then where does “Strategy” end, where do “Tactics” begin.

Dr. Goldratt realized that answering this question required that the words “Strategy” and “Tactic” had to be defined more clearly than before. His new definitions were inherently simple, yet powerful. He decided to define “Strategy” as, simply, the answer to the question: “What for?” (The answer is the objective of a proposed change). “Tactic” is defined as, simply, the answer to the question “How to?” (The answer is the details of the proposed change). From these definitions, it is clear that every Strategy (What for?) should have an associated Tactic (How to?) and therefore Strategy and Tactic must always exist in “pairs” and must exist at every level of the organization.

Goldratt’s proposed “Strategy & Tactic Tree” (Goldratt et al 2002) can therefore be viewed as simply a logical tree of the proposed changes that should be both necessary and sufficient to ensure the synchronized achievement of more Goal units for the organization. However, any logical tree is only as valid as the assumptions on which it is based. Therefore, it is the responsibility of managers at every level in the organization to not only contribute to defining and communicating the Strategy and Tactic for each proposed change, but also to define and communicate the logic of the proposed change – why the proposed change is really necessary to achieve the higher level objective and ultimately the goal of the company, why they claim it is possible to achieve the objective (Strategy) of the change (especially considering it has probably never been achieved before), why they claim their proposed change (Tactic) is the best or even the only way of achieving the Strategy of the change and finally, what advice/warning they would give to their subordinates to ensure the sufficiency of the implementation of the proposed change.

Each S&T node in the S&T is therefore simply a proposed change that should answer:

  • Why the change is needed? (Necessary Assumption)
  • What is the specific measurable objective of the change? (Strategy)
  • Why we claim the Strategy is possible and what specific requirements, potential negative branches or obstacles must be considered when selecting from the alternative ways (tactic) for achieving the Strategy? (Parallel Assumptions linking Strategy with Tactic)
  • How to best achieve the objective of the change (Tactic) e.g. what changes should be made to processes, policy or measurement?
  • What advice/warning should be given to subordinates, which, if ignored, will likely jeopardize the sufficiency of the steps they would take to implement this tactic or which is likely to be ignored (without the warning)? (Sufficiency Assumption)

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