By Elizabeth Zielinski, CMM
Look at any industry association's educational offerings in recent years, and you will see many sessions relating to meetings strategy. As planners, we're told that we have to understand not only the strategy of our organizations, but that we also should be driving it in order to ensure our own professional futures. It's an unpopular sentiment to suggest that tactics even have a place in the planner's vision.
I won't argue the point that good strategies drive success. But I also believe that planners' tactics are too readily compared to cup-counting, when in fact, they can be almost as important to the success of a meeting as the strategy behind holding the event. After all, even in the best of circumstances, planners are not driving organizational strategies, they're driving meeting strategies. So unless your organization exists to create meetings, then the meeting itself is, by definition, a tactic supporting the organizational mission and strategies.
Let's start by clarifying what these terms mean. The mission is a statement written in the form of a very big, long-term achievement, representing the ultimate aspiration of the business. For example, Apple's mission is to change the world with technology, not specifically to make iPhones or iPads. The strategy is a deliberately constructed plan that will be employed in order to pursue the mission, and the tactics are the smaller actions taken to execute the strategy. If an organization's ideology is compared to a pyramid, then the tactics are the supporting base, the strategy is the balanced design and the mission is the culminating tip.
The best meetings probably lie somewhere between tactical and strategic, but with a strong command of both. The tactics have to be successfully designed and executed in order for the strategy to succeed, but the strategy is the guiding principle and common goal. In other words, there's no point announcing the next iPad to an audience of thousands if the giant screen behind the speaker isn't displaying the product, but there's also no point in having the screen without a product to show on it.
Tactics, if executed as mere cup-counting, are small actions. But when properly leveraged and measured against the strategy, they can be powerful tools. Only together do strategy and tactics result in a productive meeting; focusing on either element in isolation will result in a misfire. And that's not good for anyone's professional success.
I'm interested to hear if you think the key to success is strategy, tactics or both, and how you leverage them. Feel free to comment below or e-mail me at LizontheBiz@gmail.com.