As your team nears the finish line for completing your strategic plan, you might finally feel like you’ve finished the marathon of planning.
But, as demonstrated by three of our recent clients, you should akin the completion of your corporate plan to the passing off the baton to your department and individual contributors to complete the action planning that makes your plan, well, actionable.
To be clear, your organization is ready for action planning when you’ve hit the mile-marker where you’ve built your plan, including strategic direction supported by organization-wide goals and initiatives. With this collective exercise completed by your planning team and executive leadership, you can now turn to your department leaders and their teams to create the final, granular, specific detail that defines the specific work to be done by individuals throughout the organization to support the plan. It answers the question of who needs to do what, by when while strategically contributing to the priorities and goals of the organization.
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Three of our clients, including IT Partners, Lightwire, and South Carolina Student Loan Corporation recently hit this milestone and reminded us of three key tips you should use as you develop the nuts and bolts of your action plans:
Tip #1: Don’t venture into the weeds. A strategic plan is just that; strategic. Lead with asking yourself (or your team) what are the big, actionable milestones that need to be achieved each quarter to drive the parent goals and objectives. If you can’t answer how each action supports the achievement of the parent goals, you may have gone too far down the rabbit hole and it doesn’t belong in your action plan.
Tip #2: Make every goal SMART. It sounds so business 101, but make sure that all your goals and actions are SMART; specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. Being really clear and specific about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how it will be achieved puts your best foot forward in ensuring your actions can be achieved. Remember, good goals start with a verb!
Tip #3: When possible, you can think about action planning as something that produces tangible deliverables. While you might touch on this using the SMART goal methodology, a good way to think about actions is they can result in a tangible deliverable with a measurable data point. An example of an action we’ve seen is “Improve the website.” Instead, think about the action as creating a clear deliverable. An improvement might be “Update the content, layout, and messaging on the About Us section of the website to improve time on page by 30 seconds.” The action has a tangible deliverable with an outcome that can me measured. It helps take the subjectivity out of the progress of actions.
But, above all else, make sure you don’t drop the baton during handoff! Action planning may seem like an arbitrary step in the planning process, but, it’s how your organization will start achieving your long-term vision of success from the ground-up.