While with the FBI working in the Director’s Office of Strategic Planning I began to realize there are many approaches to build a strategic plan. I wanted a plan that could go into operation and provide performance management measures. I also wanted a repeatable process that was understood, committed to, and creates ownership.
Over time, and additional insight from organizations and people of great diversity, I have come to rely on the following to build and implement plans in any organization of any size.
To set the discussion:
- Time and money are both units of measure and of performance
- Tactics deliver short-term actions
- Goals, objectives, and actions need a clear link to mission and vision
- Linkage of every resource justifies the mission, vision, and executive strategy
Time and money are limited. If you don’t have strategic linkage to expend time or money it is likely you will waste both time and money? Each unit of time spent on the wrong process or the wrong option can never be recovered. The approach to quantify both time and money makes this strategic planning useful to every organization: private, public, non-profit, or government.
I find people have a tendency to become too involved too quickly with tactics. Tactics include what to buy, what to build, what to move. Strategy is why build, why buy, why move. Much of your organization is involved in the detail of execution, it is natural they are not strategically aligned. However, when your team discovers tactics do align to goals they are shown sense of purpose. Purpose provides motivation.
The meat of the strategic planning process is the goals-objectives-actions value chain. People may have other definitions for goals, objectives, and actions, and bristle at the rigidity of the definitions, however, a single use for each term will remove interpretation and confusion.
Each business unit, department, and project should submit a plan built from the following structure:
- Goals are the desired result of the objectives and represent what we want to achieve, not what we want to avoid doing. Goals, taken together, when achieved, should enable all the stakeholders and resources to achieve the mission or vision.
- Objectives reflect what will be done, but not how, to meet the goal. Objectives are
milestonesalong the way, and indicative of progress toward that goal. Important: you can have many objectives per goal.
- Actions reflect how the objective is to be met, actions are time-bound and measurable* given the availability of resources. If an action does not enable or link to the objective clearly it should not specifically be linked to the objective. Important: you can have many actions per objective.
Once complete, the goals-objectives-actions value chain will look like an organization chart, with a goal as the parent and each objective a child directly linked to that goal. If an objective does not enable a goal, strike that objective or find another place for the objective.
Each action is a child directly linked to an objective. If an action does not enable an objective, strike it or find another place for it. Another further quality test for actions is if you can look at an action and see it enable the goal as well as the objective.
The plan is clear when each goal enables the strategic plan. Managers should present their plan to the executive team. The executive team should sign off on each plan or push back and ask for further clarity.
Once all of the organization’s strategic plans are rolled up, your organization not only has a strategic plan, but plans that include time-bound and measurable results that provide management and team performance plans. Time-bound and measurable actions allow your organization to review and measure progress towards accomplishment.
Keep the team and yourself open to the clarity into planning and operations that this process can provide. The team’s insight into the planning process is as important as the strategic plan or any results of the plan. Plans change based on unidentified risks or new opportunity; however, the ability to clarify and align your resources is more important for organizations to maximize their return on resources.
From this goals-objectives-action value chain you now have an aligned organization with direct linkage to resource commitment and investment: that is accountability.
I can not claim this is my process, but a process I have come to rely on and have modified to deliver organization excellence to those who adopt the concept.
*organizations not used to or familiar with time-bound, measurable criteria can move this criteria up to the objectives in place of or in addition to actions that are time-bound and measurable.