Conditions for Effective Tactical Management

Mid-level managers rarely have strategic objectives, tactical goals, and autonomy handed to them. Mid-level managers should collaborate with executive management to create these conditions.

To be successful, mid-level managers need to engage executive management proactively and create the conditions.

Tactical Decisions are Needed, Now

In an era of fierce competition and rapidly evolving business conditions, management at the tactical level needs to be responsive. The proliferation of Agile & Lean methodologies indicate the acceptance of the need to respond to continuous feedback and changing conditions. The rise of companies like Toyota are held as inspirational stories to encourage this practice.

Besides just responding, management is about getting stuff done. And by stuff we mean important stuff.

Management was, is, and always will be the same thing: The art of getting things done. And to get things done, managers must act themselves and mobilize collective action on the part of others.

- R.G. Eccles , & N. Nohria, P. 32.Beyond the hype. Harvard Business School Press, 1992.

Mid-level managers are constantly barraged by problems every day. There is never a lack of challenges to address. Managers need to prioritize those decisions that will best impact the business. They need to be a force multiplier, making decisions that benefit bottom line. They need to think strategic and tactical.

Tactics are the Province of the Mid-Level Manager

Tactical decision making is the province of the mid-level manager (MLM — managers from two levels below the CEO down to the line managers). Mid-level managers oversee teams of doers getting stuff done. The effective mid-level manager:

  1. Collaborates with executive management to know and understand the big picture (strategic objectives)
  2. Identifies tactical goals that allow them to separate the trees from the forest
  3. Has clear and direct authority to execute

Collaborating with Executive Management

Mid-level managers rarely have strategic objectives, tactical goals, and autonomy handed to them. Mid-level managers need to collaborate with executive management in order to create these conditions. 

In a followup post, I will discuss some of the frameworks and artifacts that help create the conditions for effective tactical management, including:

  • Triple-A Leadership Model
  • A3 Thinking
  • Portfolio Planning

A3 Thinking Template

A3 Thinking is a great way to diagnose problems  and communicate an action plan in a concise and easy to communicate format that is (among others) appropriate for communicating with executive management.

I am a fan of Agile and Lean methods because they give us a framework for approaching complex problems where the best solution is not entirely predictable upfront.

The problem with the standard Lean Canvas and other formats I have commonly found is that they are not appropriate in all situations, particularly when communicating action plans to executive management. The idea of tracking important business goals with sticky notes does not lend itself well unless the executive management is already embracing the practice themselves.

Fortunately A3 Thinking is a great tool for communicating the agile approach to a variety of audiences that includes executive management. It communicates the problem, goals, objective measurement, and experiment in a concise and easy to understand format. The most important ingredient of an agile framework is its ability to communicate efficiently and its ability to couch efforts in the scientific method in order to take best advantage of continuous learning .

I created this A3 Thinking Template and it works great for me: A3ThinkingTemplate

Here also is the A3 Thinking Template in Google Doc format: GoogleDoc