Within an organisation planning, control and decision-making is carried out at various levels within the structure of the organisation.
The three levels at which information can be used are strategic, tactical and operational and there is a direct correlation between the levels of importance of individuals or groups within an organisation and the level of information that is being communicated.
Strategic information is used at the very top level of management within an organisation. These are chief executives or directors who have to make decisions for the long term.
Strategic information is broad based and will use a mixture of information gathered from both internal and external sources.
In general a timescale may be from one to five years or even longer depending on the project. Some oil related projects are planned from the outset to last for 25 or more years. A supermarket building a new superstore will look at a timescale of 20 years or so, whilst even a small business may have a five-year strategy.
Strategic plans will have little or no detail in them and more detailed strategic plans will be made slightly lower down the managerial ladder. A good strategic plan will be easier to flesh out lower down than a poor or vague strategic plan. Similarly, well constructed and more detailed plans will be easier to implement than poorly constructed plans.
The next level down is the tactical level, and tactical planning and decision-making takes place within the guidelines set by the strategic plan.
Tactical information will be mostly internal with a few external sources being used. Internal information is likely to be function related: for example, how much ‘down time’ a production line must allocate for planned maintenance.
Tactical information is used by middle management (employees) when managing or planning projects.
The timescale is usually at least between 6 months and 5 years (depending on the scale of the strategic project). Circumstances vary but a small project may have a tactical timescale of between one and six months.
Tactical plans have a medium level of detail and will be very specific; they deal with such matters as who is doing what and within what specific budgets and timescales.
These plans have medium scope and will address details at the operational level. They will generally have specific objectives and be geared towards implementation by operational level employees.
The lowest level is operational and operational planning takes place based on the tactical plans.
The lowest level of management or workers in an organisation implements operational plans. These may be section leaders or foremen in a large organisation or workers such as shop assistants, waiting staff, and kitchen staff, etc., in smaller businesses where there is no supervisory layer.
The timescale is usually very short, anything from immediately, daily or at most a week or month.
Results of operational work will usually be passed upwards to let the tactical planners evaluate their plans.