Action Plan vs. Strategy – The Difference Between

How is an action plan different from a strategy?

Action plan and strategy are often thought to go hand in hand with each other and that you cannot have one without the other. Such is not the case because they mean two completely different things. It is possible to have a plan of action and not have the strategy necessary to bring it to reality. There are some people who have a goal that they would like to realize, but they continually put off putting a plan into place to help them achieve it. There are others who are always read to act on a plan, but they do not have the vision to determine whether or not the plan will be successful.

A sports team prepares a strategy about how they will play against a particular team based on the experiences they have had in past games. They plan this strategy based on the strengths and weaknesses of their own team as well as those of the opposing team. However, a variety of circumstances can come into play that will mean that a specific strategy does not work in the way it was planned. Therefore there must be a Plan B that the team has to put into place. Then this additional plan becomes part of the strategy. This illustrates the point that an action plan is part of a strategy and in order for the strategy to succeed the action plan has to be put into place.

An action plan is part of a strategy. When you have an action plan you have to activate the strategy and make it part of the plan. An easy way to differentiate between action plan and strategy is to say that the action plan is the overall goal and the strategy is one way in which you can reach this goal.  It is impossible to reach a goal without having an action plan and if you don’t have a strategy or if you don’t implement that strategy, the action plan is useless.

Strategies are developed and prepared in the board rooms of businesses, but the implementation of the action plan using these strategies actually takes place on the ground level in the work of the employees. Developing a strategy is the first step and the action plan follows. There is no time limit on a strategy, whereas there is a time limit on an action plan. Coming up with the strategy required thinking but putting it into action takes physical work. Strategies can be changed as you go along and you may have to try several different ones as you work through your action plan.


  1. Strategy and action plan complement each other and both are essential in order to achieve a goal.
  2. Strategies can be seen as the blueprint for the action plan. The plan, then, is the process that you work through as you apply the strategies.
  3. Strategy is mental work, but an action plan is physical work.