By Jeff Brunings
Is Your Strategic Plan Too Fat?

How do you keep a strategic plan skinny enough so your organization doesn’t choke on it? Swelling strategic plans happen a lot. They get too fat. Either there’s simply too many ideas from senior leadership, too many proposed initiatives from functional teams, or there’s a culture that’s just hell-bent on being overly opportunistic.

Being agile is one thing, but chasing down too many initiatives that can’t be executed, erodes focus and prevents a cohesive plan from keeping an organization aligned.

So, what do you do when your plan is packing on extra pounds? Prioritize. Here’s an exercise for helping narrow the waistband:

  • First, compile a list of all of your proposed initiatives and initiatives that remain incomplete from the previous year that you need to roll over.
  • Create a two axis grid labeled “Effort” and “Impact” numbered on a 1-10 scale (1 being low effort/impact, 10 being high effort/impact).
  • Gather your planning team together and place the initiatives along the grid to assess the level of effort and impact each initiative will take. Here’s a list of common criteria we find helpful in measuring impact and effort.

Criteria for level of effort:

  • What resources are required?
  • How much time will it take?
  • What will it cost?
  • How actionable is it?

Criteria for level of impact:

  • Does it impact the organization’s core strategic objectives?
  • Does it directly impact the organization’s measureable goals and targets?
  • How will you know it’s successful?
  • Are there data systems in place to measure impact?

Have the team score each objective in a cross-functional exercise. The key here is to get your team to acknowledge and agree upon the critical initiatives your organization needs to take.

This exercise allows your team to break down your strategic objectives into bite-sized, digestible pieces. Focus on the low effort/high impact first – those obviously need to be in your plan. Then, move up the scale and incorporate only the objectives that your organization has a reasonable probability of actually making happen.

For those that don’t make the filter, put in place what trigger events need to happen for them to be reassessed during the year. Whether it is additional budget, a shift in resources, or industry partnerships, outline the circumstance in which you could accomplish the objectives that didn’t make the short list.

As tempting as it is to make a big, bulky plan with every initiative under the sun, opt for one that is lean enough for your team to execute. Empower them with a plan that can be achieved, don’t crush them with the weight of one that can’t be accomplished.

Jeff Brunings

With over 20 years management experience in multi-industry environments, Jeff drives customer experience by advancing the effectiveness of OnStrategy’s cloud-based platform and services.