Creating an actionable strategic plan

Sir Winston Churchill said, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” While this quote is a little tongue in cheek, the unfortunate reality is that companies and nonprofit entities alike invest significant capital in strategic plans that ultimately end up abandoned before they’re completed.

For a strategic plan to be actionable, meaningful, and transformative, you must encompass those famous interrogatives from grade school — What, Why, Who, Where, When, and How — at the onset of planning.

WHAT: Vision, Goals & Action Plan

Your strategic plan outlines the future of your entity, largely illustrated in your vision. Importantly, the goals outlined in your strategic plan can be broken down into objectives, strategies and tactics, and further assigned to departments or individuals for execution. This assignment of duties creates the initial action plan. It’s an essential first step to understand where you want to go and what it may take to get you there.

WHY: Alignment & Execution

Strategic plans are created to map the course for reaching goals, but more importantly, the plan creates alignment among the people responsible for carrying out the tasks necessary to get there. In addition to alignment, it creates accountability and ownership to ensure execution.

WHO: Team, Culture & Core Values

The most critical component of executing a strategic plan is alignment within the team. This means that those responsible for strategic planning need to look hard at their team and culture, and what will be necessary to achieve the vision, mission and goals. This can be the most challenging component of the plan, as the future of the organization may require a different workforce than you have today. Aside from reviewing and updating what may be necessary in the organizational chart, strategic plan developers must consider the kind of company they want to be. This means that the plan should incorporate a review and/or creation of the organization’s core values and objectives around the culture that’s desired and — frankly — necessary to be successful.

WHERE: Everywhere

The strategic plan should be ever-present. Once the plan is complete, it should be visible and shared throughout the entire entity so that it remains a priority for everyone. The plan should guide every decision made within the company. Ask the team to consider the following: What goal will this new activity help us reach? If the answer is “none,” then it’s likely not a valuable use of time.

WHEN: KPIs & SMART goals

A strategic plan is not a “forever” document that ignores the realities of business. Rather, it outlines the next several years of operation. To know if you’re achieving the goals outlined in the plan, it’s necessary to implement measures that are directly related to success but, more importantly, time bound.

HOW: Budget & Operating System 

For a strategic plan to be truly actionable, it must have a budget that provides the wherewithal for execution. This budget should be created in conjunction with the plan development. In addition to budget, it is absolutely necessary to incorporate an operating system into your business. The operating system will ensure alignment by organizing how the company functions (just like a computer’s operating system). This gives the company a playbook that makes the action plan actually actionable.

Jessica Sublett is CEO of Bounce Innovation Hub

Jessica Sublett



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