Tactical plans are concerned with shorter time frames and narrower scopes than are strategic plans. These plans usually span one year or less because they are considered short‐term goals. Long‐term goals, on the other hand, can take several years or more to accomplish. Normally, it is the middle manager's responsibility to take the broad strategic plan and identify specific tactical actions.
A strategic plan is an outline of steps designed with the goals of the entire organization as a whole in mind, rather than with the goals of specific divisions or departments. Strategic planning begins with an organization's mission.
Strategic plans look ahead over the next two, three, five, or even more years to move the organization from where it currently is to where it wants to be. Requiring multilevel involvement, these plans demand harmony among all levels of management within the organization. Top‐level management develops the directional objectives for the entire organization, while lower levels of management develop compatible objectives and plans to achieve them. Top management's strategic plan for the entire organization becomes the framework and sets dimensions for the lower level planning.
Intelligent and successful management depends upon a constant pursuit of adaptation, flexibility, and mastery of changing conditions. Strong management requires a “keeping all options open” approach at all times — that's where contingency planning comes in.
Contingency planning involves identifying alternative courses of action that can be implemented if and when the original plan proves inadequate because of changing circumstances.
Keep in mind that events beyond a manager's control may cause even the most carefully prepared alternative future scenarios to go awry. Unexpected problems and events frequently occur. When they do, managers may need to change their plans. Anticipating change during the planning process is best in case things don't go as expected. Management can then develop alternatives to the existing plan and ready them for use when and if circumstances make these alternatives appropriate.