What are the differences Among Strategic, Tactical, and Operational Plans?

A strategic plan is a business plan created by an executive management team which has a much wider scope than a tactical or operational plan. It is a plan that can outline the ambitions, future goals, and mission of an organization. Strategic plans tend to be broader and vaguer, although they may focus on the high-level and long-term goals that the company will work to achieve over the next three to five years. Strategic planning can also include the way an organization will measure its progress toward the established goals and any major projects that need to be completed to achieve the goals.

A tactical plan is created by mid-level management professionals and includes the specific actions that employees must take to work toward the goals described in the strategic plan. This plan can also outline how a certain area or department of a business will support the strategic plan. A tactical plan isn’t usually very detailed, but it will include more specific ideas and actions.

One of the main differences between a strategic and operational plan is the period of time covered. In a strategic plan, the goals are typically attainable in several years, while the operational plan goals are short-term ones and can be achieved during the next year in most cases.

The focus of the goals and objectives in each plan differs as well. A strategic plan exists to outline the long-term vision of the company and how each department will work together to achieve the goals. An operational plan focuses on specific departments and their roles in achieving short-term goals. A large department may have multiple plans to maintain a clear and detailed focus.

Who creates each plan is another difference. Members of an organization’s executive management team will handle the creation of a strategic plan, since they are the individuals who are responsible for the overall vision and goals. A department’s leaders may create an operations plan since they are the individuals who will implement the processes needed to achieve the goals outlined. When team leaders are involved in creating the plan, they are often more likely to work together to accomplish the necessary tasks.

Reporting is another key differentiator among the types of plans. When reporting on a strategic plan, which may happen as often as quarterly or once a year, executive management team members will outline how an organization is performing on specific measures. The reporting should be at a high level to prevent those involved from getting too overwhelmed by minor details that don’t necessarily impact the success of the organization.

An operational plan report is much more detailed and typically is prepared and reviewed more often. By reviewing the reporting more frequently, individuals can make sure all team members remain on track and can handle the necessary tasks and processes to achieve the short-term goals related to the business operations.

Operational plans may not have specific measures to quantify results or report on, and these updates may be more qualitative or anecdotal.