In this day and age, it is still somewhat of a head-scratcher that many business leaders do not understand the difference between goals, objectives, strategies and tactics (GOST) when developing a strategic business plan.
We are not trying to insult. In fact, it’s no wonder. In researching this article, we found a number of different explanations of what goals, strategies, objectives and tactics are, which might partially explain the reason for confusing goals with objectives and/or objectives with strategies. Some people believe that it really doesn’t matter – but it does!
While a successful business plan should incorporate all four (goals, objectives, strategies and tactics), it’s important to note that each component plays an essential role in the plan. It might help to think of GOST as musical instruments and the business plan, a symphony. What is the function of each instrument in creating the overall symphony?
Goals – A goal is what you’d like to accomplish. It’s the big idea. It presents itself as a broad statement of what your organization hopes to achieve. It is more qualitative than quantitative in nature. And, goals are supported by measurable objectives. An example of a goal would be: Make XYZ medical device the preferred device of podiatric physicians in diagnosing and treating foot conditions.
Objectives – The most important thing to know about objectives is that they are measurable. As one physician explains, “an objective defines how much improvement will take place, and that improvement is either in the form of increasing a statistic (surgical volume) or decreasing a statistic (medical errors).” A couple of examples:
- Increase awareness/use of XYZ’s podiatric device by 20 percent
- Deliver a 20 percent YOY increase in sales of the device between 2016 and 2017
- Decrease the number of device malfunction incidences by 10 percent in 2016
Strategies – One person defines a strategy as WHY you do something; another, as an overall approach or method for attaining results. Strategies should answer the question, “How do we accomplish our objectives?” And, strategies define a general approach or method, whereas tactics describe specific activities. Some examples of strategies include:
- Educate current and potential podiatric physicians on the benefits of using XYZ device for patients and practitioners to generate awareness among our primary market.
- Outreach to trade and social media with information on the product and its benefits to maximize interest among potential customers and the industry at large.
Tactics – As mentioned above, tactics are specific activities that will be implemented to meet your objectives and execute your strategies. Tactics are actionable. A strong strategic plan will assign due dates to each action along with the names of those responsible for executing each tactic. Examples of some tactics include:
- Develop educational materials including product brochure, video and fact sheet
- Obtain lists of board-certified podiatrists in the U.S. and medical schools with a podiatric medicine specialty
- Send educational materials to podiatric trade publications/web sites and bloggers specializing in podiatric medicine.
When goals, objectives, strategies and tactics are elucidated in a strategic plan, it is like all instruments playing together to create the perfect opus – for success!