This guide on developing strategic objectives is the phase in the strategic planning process where you build off of your SWOT analysis to develop your plan.
In the previous steps, you addressed where you are and where you are going. Now, you will focus on how you will get there. Use your SWOT to stay grounded and realistic as you build a road-map from where you are today to where you want to be. Review the components explained in the Internal & External Analysis article to help you process your SWOT for themes that will be used for strategic objectives and goals.
By their nature, strategic objectives can be difficult to develop because they are in the middle ground between aspiration (vision – 5+ years) and specific (goals – 1-2 years). Strategic objectives are mid-term, three-plus years in nature, statements that bridge your vision to specific actions in the short term. Here are two approaches to prevent getting stuck. In both cases, use the main themes from your SWOT as the basis for identifying strategic objectives.
- Start with Labels: Instead of writing full statements, use labels that communicate intent as placeholders such as “Financial Sustainability” or “Customer Retention.” After you have created goals, come back to develop full statements that are more directional. In almost a bottom up approach, this will help you move along without having to perfect strategic objectives.
- Get Balanced: Think of strategic objectives as mini-vision statements for the different perspectives of the Balanced Scorecard – Financial, Customer, Internal/Operational and People. With this in mind, develop one strategic objective for each of the four perspectives that articulate what you must focus on over the next three or more years to reach your vision.
How to Identify Strategic Objectives with Your Team
After you have identified themes from your SWOT, use this worksheet with your team to develop strategic objectives using one of the two approaches listed above. Once you have them identified, evaluate with these criteria:
• What are the “big rocks” – strategic objectives – we need to reach our vision?
• Does it tell a broad story of what the approach and focus is in a particular area?
• Is the strategic objective broad and non-measurable?
• Does it help to sustain your competitive advantage?
The Bottom Line
As you develop your strategic objectives and set your goals, make strategic choices about what to do and not to do. Remember that being strategic is about making those hard choices. A mark of a good strategic plan is one that that is clear and focused (not too many goals and objectives), as well as balanced – telling a strategy story about how your whole organization is linked and aligned. Don’t develop more than six strategic objectives because the more you have, the bigger and less strategic your plan will be.
Watch this video to learn more about choosing your strategic objectives.