Top-down thinking (strategic thinking) begins with a problem and establishes goals and objectives associated with it. Conversely, bottom-up thinking(tactical thinking) is based on present solutions that a business is already prepared to offer, but does not focus on a particular strategic direction. Without tactical thinking, strategic thinking can be disastrous. Often, upper management falls into the trap of becoming purely strategic thinkers.
Bottom-up thinking is less familiar to business leaders, but is a common method used by entrepreneurs and inventors. It starts with a set of successful tactics and uses those as a way to build a strategy. Bottom-up thinking requires tactical skills to break a problem into its component parts. It is characterized by trial and error. However, thinking purely from the bottom up is just as impractical as thinking purely from the top down.
To construct effective business models with well-aligned strategy and tactics, business leaders use strategic and tactical thinking concurrently. Effective business models have a strategy that takes its shape from how tactics have been put together. When not aligned with tactics, a strategy is nothing more than an interesting PowerPoint slide show. Nevertheless, many businesses have no process in place to ensure alignment, resulting in business models that are disconnected from their stated purpose.
Strategic alignment, in principle, is simple. However, in practice, business models are trying to solve multiple problems. It is important for business leaders to rank the importance of problems that the model was designed to solve. The Principle of Concurrent Thinking reminds business leaders that they should continuously look at their business model from both a strategic and tactical standpoint to ensure the components align. To facilitate alignment, adaptive managers develop a series of tactical briefing documents that guide those who are responsible for implementing tactics. Tactical briefs are written for each specific tactic and include the goal of the tactic, the targeted marketing segment, the competition, the messages, the schedule, and roles and responsibilities. These briefs also give upper management more visibility into and control over the strategy.
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