With origins in military history, strategy and tactics is a frequently used conceptual couplet in the business and management literature. This paper reviews how strategy and tactics are portrayed, identifying a dominant ‘pragmatic’ account of strategy as an expression of formal, planned ends achieved through the subordinate means of tactics. Pragmatic distinctions give rise to a range of well-known problems, in particular in strategy implementation stages. We suggest that some of these problems may be avoided when the strategy–tactics relationship is conceived differently. We elaborate two alternative distinctions: a sociological framing of tactics as mechanisms of resistance to formal, controlling strategies; and a processual perspective, which sidesteps fixed distinctions between tactics and strategy, giving rise to more fluid interrelations between both modes. Based on a review of the business and management literature, we identify key examples of each trope and conclude by drawing insights for each account on the basis of these wider discussions.