A tactic (from the Ancient Greek τακτική taktike meaning "art of arrangement") is a conceptual action implemented as one or more specific tasks. The term is commonly used in business, protest and military contexts, as well as in chess, sports or other competitive activities.
Strategy versus tactic
Strategy is undertaken before the battle. Tactics are implemented during battle.
The terms tactic and strategy are often confused: tactics are the actual means used to gain an objective, while strategy is the overall campaign plan, which may involve complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that lead to tactical execution. The United States Department of Defense Dictionary of Military Terms defines the tactical level as
|“||...The level of war at which battles and engagements are planned and executed to accomplish military objectives assigned to tactical units or task forces. Activities at this level focus on the ordered arrangement and maneuver of combat elements in relation to each other and to the enemy to achieve combat objectives.||”|
If, for example, the overall goal is to win a war against another country, one strategy might be to undermine the other nation's ability to wage war by preemptively annihilating their military forces. The tactics involved might describe specific actions taken in specific locations, like surprise attacks on military facilities, missile attacks on offensive weapon stockpiles, and the specific techniques involved in accomplishing such objectives.
Referring to non-military uses of the term, in his work The Practice of Everyday Life, French scholar Michel de Certeau suggests strategy and tactics are alike in that they both operate in space and time.
However, unlike strategy, which inherently creates its own autonomous space:
“A tactic is a calculated action determined by the absence of a proper locus. … The space of a tactic is the space of the other” (ibid., 36-37). A tactic is deployed “on and with a terrain imposed on it and organized by the law of a foreign power.” One who deploys a tactic “must vigilantly make use of the cracks that particular conjunctions open in the surveillance of the proprietary powers. It poaches in them. It creates surprises in them” (ibid. 37).
Tactics, then, are isolated actions or events that take advantage of opportunities offered by the gaps within a given strategic system, although the tactician never holds onto these advantages. Tactics cut across a strategic field, exploiting gaps in it to generate novel and inventive outcomes. Tactics are usually used to spoil the running context.
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