Recovering the divide: a review of strategy and tactics in business and management

David Mackay, Mike Zundel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
237 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-194
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Management Reviews
Issue number2
Early online date27 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2017


  • strategy
  • planning
  • tactics


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