Time to Define Planning Times

Perhaps I confuse easily but I am certain I have heard different people define the following terms very differently when it comes to planning: Operational, Tactical and Strategic.

I think that part of the problem is that people don’t like to use the word tactical.  It has a military ring to it that puts people off.  As a result, operational expands upwards in time to fill the void and everything becomes strategic.  Which leads me to my confusion… and this page.

Planning to Define Planning Definitions

So, on this site I will use the following definitions (adapted from ITIL) to help me remember and correctly use the terms.  A multi-colour visual aide is included to further reduce my confusion.

  • Task: takes less than a day or perhaps a few days to complete.
  • Operations: live, ongoing or about a month’s time horizon, a quarter maximum.
  • Tactical: Medium term plans required to achieve specific objectives, typically over a period of weeks to months but generally a year or less.
  • Strategic: Strategic Activities include Objective setting and long-term Planning to achieve the overall Vision.  At least a year in length and longer.
  • Vision/Purpose: A description of what the Organisation intends to become in the future.

ITIL Based Planning Time Horizons