The Strategy Ladder – how to write good objectives and strategies

You’ve been asked to write a plan or a proposal about an exciting new project. You know what needs to be done, but you find yourself struggling with that first page – outlining the objectives and trying to work out if something was a strategy or an objective or even a tactic.

And there’s a good reason for that…..

There’s a hierarchy to these things that we don’t always appreciate. What might be a tactic for one person, could be an objective for someone else in the organisation.  A restaurant owner might have as one of their objectives to increase the number of repeat visits from customers. A reasonable strategy to help achieve this might be to ensure a welcoming environment, from which a tactic could be about maintaining the cleanliness and upkeep of the restaurant. This ‘tactic’ forms a key objective for the facilities management person or cleaner. OUR OBJECTIVES DEPEND ON WHERE WE SIT WITHIN THE ORGANISATION!

No wonder we get ourselves tied up in knots!

In order to simplify this for myself, I came up with a simple concept I call “The Strategy Ladder”. All it takes is the ability to ask two one-word questions and some post-it notes or some means to move your ideas around.

Firstly, write down all the things you think could be objectives. Then put each of them to the test with these two powerful questions:  “HOW?” and “WHY?”.

When you ask “HOW will we achieve this?”, you come down the strategy ladder to strategies and tactics. Keep asking “HOW?” and you move into tactical activity.

“The Strategy Ladder” ©June Dennis 2008

When you ask “WHY do we need to do this?”, you move up the strategy ladder.

Keep asking “HOW?” and “WHY?” and you’ll slowly start to build up a linear trail of Objectives, Strategies and Tactics.


If you want to find out how “The Strategy Ladder” could help you with your strategic planning, please get in touch.

“The Strategy Ladder” ©June Dennis 2004

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