Tactical Performance

Historically, strategy has been used as a tool to deal with tactical performance. Tactical performance answers questions like: “What are my measurable goals? What is my timeline? How, precisely, am I doing?”

Businesses typically focus most of their time and energy on tactical performance, in the pursuit of predictability.



Tactical performance is relatively easy to measure (e.g., calls per hour, revenue per call, cost per call) and manage.

Imagine call center operators whose tactical performance has been strictly managed. They’ll have process maps, a strict schedule, script, calling metrics, incentive compensation, rigid performance reviews, QA/QC, and many other mechanisms to ensure they do not deviate from the plan. These are the systems of tactical performance.

Adaptive Performance

Adaptive performance is the opposite of tactical performance.

It requires creativity, grit, problem solving, and citizenship. The inputs of adaptive performance have historically been unknown, unmeasured, and unmanaged. Adaptive performance enables an organization to deal with variability. It is what leads to distinctive innovation, customer experience, quality, and customer-centric sales.

Cultures can optimize adaptive performance by maximizing a psychological phenomenon known as total motivation.



A barista, whose shift has already ended, helps a customer carry drinks to his car in the parking lot, or finds a new way of creating a customer’s unique coffee concoction.

A call center representative authentically listens to a customer’s individual needs and goes "off-script" to appropriately solve the caller's problem.

These reactions to unexpected or unknown challenges are the hallmarks of good adaptive performance.