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Old 03-24-2006, 11:19 AM
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Mexico's Norte Vecino
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What is the difference between a strategist and a tactician?

I am reading a book with a section contrasting the strengths of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The passage describes him as the sail, her as the anchor. Him as the dreamer, her as the realist. And several others.

One of which describes her as the strategist and him as the tactician.

I thought those words meant the same thing. A dictionary search indicates there is a lot of overlap.

The best I could determine is the author meant strategist as a planner and tactician as an implementer.

Has anyone ever seen these words used in a dichotomy?

They seem more synonyms than antonyms.
Old 03-24-2006, 11:28 AM
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In military terminology, strategy is the grand overall plan, while tactics are the methods used to achieve it.

For example, in WWII, "island hopping" was the US strategy. The plans used to attack and capture Iwo Jima were tactics. Similarly, invading Europe was the strategy; the method of landing the troops at Normany were the tactics.

In a presidential campaign, the strategy might be to win particular states, the tactics involved planning the ad buys, deciding which states to visit and when, etc.
"If a person saying he was something was all there was to it, this country'd be full of rich men and good-looking women. Too bad it isn't that easy.... In short, when someone else says you're a writer, that's when you're a writer... not before."
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Old 03-24-2006, 11:30 AM
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Location: Scranton PA
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I keep them seperate in my head by thinking that a strategist will tell me what he's going to do, and a tactician will tell me how he's going to do it.

I don't know if that's exactly right, but there you go.
Old 03-24-2006, 11:43 AM
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Strategists plan wars.
Tacticians plan battles.

Bill was superb in finding the exact techniqes to win the campaign battles to claim the White House. It is questionable whether he had an overall plan as to what he wanted to achieve as president. (Not that he had no idea, but that it does not appear that he had actually formed a definite plan with specific objectives, given his willingness to shift direction when he perceived serious obstacles in his path.)

I have no idea whether Hilary is actually a strategist, although some of her statements lend credence to that idea. It might simply be easier for an author, knowing that Bill is a tactician, to create an apparent contrast by claiming that Hilary is a strategist or it may be a true statement.
Old 03-24-2006, 11:44 AM
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A strategist moves armies around, a tactician moves soldiers. That's my understanding, anyway.
Old 03-24-2006, 11:48 AM
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Tactics are what you do in sight of the enemy. Translating that into politics is a bit abstract, but I'd say political strategy is the plan, tactics are speeches and the like.
Originally Posted by middleman
One of which describes her as the strategist and him as the tactician.
I'd say this is spot-on. Hillary make gaffes too often, Bill almost never faltered in this respect. Bill would never have made it far without strategists, though.
Old 03-24-2006, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by tomndebb
Strategists plan wars.
Tacticians plan battles.
Which segues to one of my favorite quotes:

Amateurs discuss strategy; professionals discuss tactics; generals discuss logistics.
Old 03-24-2006, 02:44 PM
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Long-time Strategy Consultant checking in - I worked for one of the top Managment Consultant firms for over a decade doing strategy work for multi-billion dollar clients.

From a business standpoint, a Strategy is the overall objective - e.g., "we need to be positioned as the best X within this industry sector." Tactics are the specific activities required to achieve the strategy - e.g., "To achieve that positioning we need to revise our cost structure, modify our distribution channels, re-train our sales for and upgrade our customer service system." Each of those activities is a tactic in support of the strategy.

So in this regard, a strategist conceives of the overall objective and the tactician would break that down into the specific activities required to achieve it. Pretty much in line with definitions in early posts, but with a business shading to it...
Old 03-24-2006, 03:20 PM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Chili-con-valley
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A tactition might win the battle at such cost that they lose the war.
A strategist might lose a battle in order to win a war.

Tactics is methods to achieve short term goals, strategy is methods to achieve long term goals. The length of the term is dependant on what you are talking about.

Considering a duel the tactic may be to feint an attack to draw out the enimies response, a strategy might be to tire out the enimy before making your move to win.
Considering a battle a tactic may be for your infantry to form a square against charging cavalry, a strategy might be to attempt to flank the enimies position.
In politics a tactic may be to appeal to the voters with promisses you can't keep and thus be unlikely to hold a majority into your second term, a strategey would be to make the opposing party appear innept and unelectable.
Old 03-24-2006, 05:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Bippy the Beardless
A tactition might win the battle at such cost that they lose the war.
A strategist might lose a battle in order to win a war.

Tactics is methods to achieve short term goals, strategy is methods to achieve long term goals. The length of the term is dependant on what you are talking about.
Just to throw out a particularly geeky example, one could take the Swedish king Charles XII and his Russian nemesis Peter the Great. Charles was an absolutely brilliant tactician, who first won acclaim when he defeated a Russian force ( albeit inferior in quality ) that outnumbered him by ~5:1 in the Narva campaign. He went on to consistently win battles against superior forces time after time - on the battlefield he seemed unstoppable.

However Charles was also an awful grand strategist. In the Great Northern War he spent year pursuing and trying to overthrow Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and titular king of Poland, whom he personally despised. Augustus for his part after being whipped on the battlefield a couple of times was desperate to come to terms. But Charles would hear none of it and stubbornly continued on his counterproductive personal vendetta, while allowing the far more formidable threat represented by Russia to rearm and retool. Ultimately that led to his defeat when he eventually unconcernedly plunged deep, deep into Russia where he was finally worn down to the point where he suffered his only, close fought, but absolutely decisive defeat at Poltava.

Peter meanwhile was not much of a battlefield commander. In fact he rarely took the field at all, trusting mostly to generals. When he did get out there his performance was rather dismal, as when he was lured into a trap by the Crimean Tatars on the Pruth river, where he was encircled by a huge Ottoman army ( where normally that would have been all she wrote, but he bribed his way out ). But Peter had tremendous strategic vision. He patiently built and re-built his armies, modernized his country, played power politics and attempted to strech Charles out as far as he could. Ultimately Peter's farsightedness and Charles' tunnel vision combined to win the Great Northern War for Russia, which was Russia's springboard to dominant power status and more or less the end of Swedish imperial ambition.

- Tamerlane

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