Strategic vs. Tactical Project Manager

15 Oct

As project managers, we often find ourselves buried in several tactical activities in our day-to-day job, so we spend less time on strategic planning.  So, how can you overcome this?  Can you do both activities?  To begin, let’s define the difference between tactical and strategic.


  • Short-term goals & objectives
  • Micro-oriented
  • Focus on SMART goals and How to get things done
  • Day-to-Day Activities that will move the company forward to achieve the strategic plan
  • Planning Focus Mainly: 1-18 Months
  • Example:
    • Are the projects on time, on budget and going well?
    • Do the project team members know what they should be doing?


  • Long-term goals & objects
  • Big picture thinking
  • Macro-oriented
  • Part of your company’s Mission
  • Focus on the Who, What, and Why
  • Planning Focus Mainly: 3-5 Year
  • Example:
    • Where the company wants to go and what it needs to achieve the goal
    • Improve ROI, increase shareholder value, gain market share
    • Are we working on the right projects to meet our business needs?
    • Are we investing in the right areas to meet our strategic goals?

In thinking of all of the tactical activities in which you engage in as a project manager, such as documenting details, answering questions, describing functionality, responding to feedback, etc., ask yourself:

  1. How much time is your time taken up by tactical activities?
  2. It is because you are the only person in the company who knows how to answer these questions?
  3. Everyone else is busy and you are the only one that has free time?
  4. Only you can do these important tasks?
  5. How much time do you spend thinking on a strategic context?

Project managers whom think only on tactical tasks are focused on increasing the performance of projects, but what is good performance without a strategic purpose?  It is important to think strategically to see how your projects align with the big picture/purpose, goals, and value of the organization, as it can change the requirements and the way your implement the project. In order to become a successful project manager, you have to be “stractical,” which means you think strategically, while you execute projects tactically.

Most project managers engage in these tactical activities because they have done those tasks in the past. Can you think of some tactical tasks in which you could delegate to others, so you can spend more time thinking strategically?  Can you be proficient at both tactical and strategic proficiently? What tips can you share on how to find the best balance between being tactical and strategic? Please comment below, as I would love to hear your thoughts! 

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3 responses to “Strategic vs. Tactical Project Manager

  1. Yemi

    February 3, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Yes, tactical tasks should be delegated to others by the project manager (PM) to create more time to think strategically! A deliberate attempt to identify all tactical tasks during the planning phase and delegating to others launches the PM to a world of strategic thinking!!

  2. Lisa Drake

    February 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Thank you Yemi for your comment! I agree, as strategic thinking is so important and often missed due to so many tactical day-to-day tasks.

  3. ahmed

    June 24, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Great topic , it was very useful to me


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