If you’ve already built your Strategic Plan for the year, do you have concerns about operationalizing your yearly objectives? The most common issue cited for a delay in getting plans underway is the overwhelming impact of the “day-to-day realities of business” which continually side tracks best intentions.

If you’ve experienced this, you should know that you are not alone.  Moving from Strategic Planning to Strategic Doing is a failure-prone activity that, when done effectively, separates productive leaders from their peers. The discipline required to successfully operationalize strategic objectives (Strategic Doing) is a mix of strategic planning with good old-fashioned program and project management.

So…what do you do? When you have either organizational or departmental strategic objectives to operationalize, you’ll want to…

  1. Gain Full Perspective: Take the time to gain an understanding of where your team stands now and, as importantly, learn “how they got there.” Before charging ahead with a new set of actions, consider that a GPS system requires both a starting point and an ending point before allowing you to proceed. Taking the time to gain clarity about where you’re starting will be critical to success. Obtaining true perspective requires the ability to hear and see things as they are in reality.  Therefore, all key voices must have the freedom to speak truth to the team. Participation in perspective building activities provide the team with a shared understanding of the fundamental realities of the situation, uncovers new truths for the group to consider and provides them with the clarity they need to act decisively – and together.
  2. Develop the Core Plan: This is where taking the time to gain perspective pays dividends. Bringing forth the core assumptions, truths and realities regarding the Financial, Organizational and Strategic conditions discovered during the perspective phase is critical and helps define how the team can and will move forward. Teams develop a clear understanding of who their true customer/client is (sometimes they’re internal to the organization) and develop the vision and strategies that will allow the team to serve their customer/client effectively and meet their objectives. Now we create the measures and methods needed to monitor the success, stagnation or failure of the operationalized plan throughout its lifecycle.
  3. Time for Action: It seems that there is always an overwhelming number of tasks that need to be done when operationalizing any plan. It is imperative that these options are quickly culled down to only those deemed most important at that moment. Every team has financial and operational capacity limits and the key question to ask is “What’s Important Now?” Next, clearly define the team leaders who are responsible for each objective as well as the members of the functional teams they will lead. These teams then enumerate the executable action steps and begin to work on them. As projects are completed, additional projects can be added to the list of What’s Important Now until the project is complete.
  4. Develop the “Right” Structure: What form best facilitates the operationalizing of the plan objectives? This is a classic “form follows function” scenario. The new plan will have its own structural requirements. Leaders will have to determine if these requirements necessitate structural changes within the team. Additionally, systems vital to the successful operationalizing of the objective need to be identified, updated and managed.
  5. Measuring Progress and Success: How are we Doing? If we don’t set up methods for checking on progress, it is not possible to effectively learn whether things are getting better or even getting done. While this process starts during the Action phase, it must become formally embedded in the operationalization of the plan. Without continuous review and measurement leaders won’t know if the processes that were set in motion have been delayed, have stalled, become derailed or are moving forward effectively. Without this information, leaders won’t know what steps to take next to meet their objectives.

There are numerous tools available to help leaders effectively transition from Strategic Planning to Strategic Doing. You’ll find many open source options on the web or you may find that you can purchase tools that meet your need.  At JERA, our strategic planning process is called StratOp, a system that operationalizes the strategic, operational, and financial objectives of organizations and results in Strategic Doing for our clients.

Strategic Planning tools can be an effective way to transition into successful Strategic Doing but some leaders may find it difficult to implement. Effectively leading the types of discussions necessary to bring all the “right” ideas to the forefront from the assembled team, without overshadowing the discussions as the recognized leader, or alternately, frustrating yourself by continuously muting your perspective in order to minimize your impact as the leader, is hard to achieve and can be less then satisfying for all.  Obtaining the assistance of a qualified strategic planning facilitator may be the best way to achieve your desired results.  Once the team has experienced the process and developed the needed tools, resources and language to transition into effective Strategic Doing, they may be better prepared to work independently in the future. The bottom line is that, as your team gets in the cadence of Strategic Doing, you will be able to prioritize the importance of projects, you will see alignment in your team, and you will recognize results more quickly than you expected.