Strategy vs Tactics

Strategy and tactics are two terms that can be easily confused and sometimes, unfortunately, used interchangeably. In the Survival Principles post, I briefly mention that there is a difference between strategy and tactics. In this post I want to dig more into the details and show how these two can work together for our safety and self defense.

In order to understand strategy, we first need to understand what strategy is not. Strategy is not planning or tactics. Strategy is the big picture. It helps achieve the overall goal and it answers the question why, which is used to create a plan. When creating a strategy, we need to look closely at the different paths that lead to the desired long-term outcome. This means that we need to look at all the factors, those that are anticipated and even those factors that aren’t.[1] Meaning, we need to acknowledge the situation in it’s entirety and not just the desired ends. Creating a strategy comes first, then creating a plan that fits with our strategy, not the other way around. The strategy guides and pushes the plan towards our end goal. On the other hand, tactics are what we use to make up the plan. These are the steps that ensure the objectives or sub-goals in the plan are carried out. We may even (usually) employ several tactics that involve multiple aspects of self defense/safety/security to meet our overall goal.

The graph below will help demonstrate the difference between strategy and tactics. I borrowed this graph from Jeremiah Owyang, the founder of Crowd Companies Council. The original can be found here. You’ll notice I’ve changed a few details to make the model reflect more for a security/self defense model.Strategy vs Tactics Chart[2]

When we have both strategy and tactics working together to achieve the same outcome, the goals can be achieved more efficiently and we have a greater chance of success. If our strategy and tactics are not aligned, then our success may be hindered or fail all together. Let’s take a look at an example of goals, strategy and tactics centered around self defense.

Goal: Create and maintain a safe environment in all areas of my lifestyle.

Strategy: Minimize threats and associated risks through a comprehensive overhaul of current safety/security procedures and self defense ideologies put into action.

Tactics: Create a detailed threat assessment and implement best practices for:

  • Routes to avoid high crime areas
  • Being a hard target
  • Escape and evade procedures
  • Self defense/medical/firearms training
  • Gain a working knowledge of the applicable local and federal laws
  • Training for new skills that are applicable to my overall goal

It’s important to reiterate that tactics will change from event to event. For example, you can create a detailed threat assessment but that doesn’t really help you avoid an active shooter or de-escalate a monkey dance in the moment. To increase your safety in those events you will need to use other tactics that work toward your overall goal of a safe environment, such as E&E or good verbal communication for de-escalation or redirection.

As you can see, this is really about identifying your goal and creating a strategy that works in tandem with your tactics. When creating strategy for self defense remember that your goal is what you hope to achieve, strategy answers the why and tactics are the steps within the strategy that move you closer to your goal.

1 George Konetes, The Difference Between a Plan and Strategy, Infinity Concepts, (Sept 19, 2011).
2 Jeremiah Owyang, The Difference Between Strategy and Tactics, The Web Strategist,

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: