The 5 Essential Parts of a Dust-Repellent Strategic Plan

September 21, 2010 by Stacey Barr

Lots of strategic plans and operational plans are full of motherhood goals, vague strategies and – if they are even considered at all – measures or KPIs that don’t track anything useful. No wonder these plans sit on shelves and gather dust.

feather dusterAnd if that’s not bad enough, they use terminology in a confusing way, like when the term “KPI” is used to mean something more like a goal or objective, rather than a true performance measure. Or they ignore the entire concept of measures or measurability.

So how can you create a strategic plan that is results-oriented, that spends far more time on your person than it does on your shelf, and that means as much to you as navigational charts are to a ship’s captain, or maps are to a rally car driver’s navigator?

It doesn’t have to be complex, glossy or an inch thick. All the better, it can be a single page. And on that page, over and above the standard vision-mission-values stuff, there are 5 essential elements for a results-oriented and dust-repellent strategy:

Column 1: Key Result Areas

Key Result Areas give some structure or ‘chunking’ to your strategic plan, as well as a framework for completeness or balance. You could use the Balanced Scorecard perspectives, the Triple Bottom Line, or any other strategic model that takes your fancy. Irrespective, aim to have only 3 to 5 areas of focus because if you make it more complex, there are just more places for dust to gather.

Column 2: Results

Results aren’t goals or objectives. They are clear statements of the outcomes or differences that are most important to make happen, in each Key Result Area. Make them vivid, so reading the words invokes clear images of what it looks like when they’re happening. Be ruthless, so you are only ever focused on what matters most of all, and only ever have a manageable number of priorities to achieve.

Column 3: Measures or KPIs

I mean measures as in evidence, not measures as in “we are taking measures to fix this”. Measures are usually quantitative values that you track regularly through time, that tell you how well you’re achieving your results (in column 2). Each result only needs one or two measures, typically.

Column 4: Targets

Targets are numerical values that describe where you want your measure to be at a particular point in the future. Include for each performance measure a time-anchored target and then you have all the ingredients for a true goal or objective statement: a result (column 2) + a measure (column 3) + a target + a timeframe.

Column 5: Improvement Initiatives

These are the projects, investments and opportunities you’re choosing to make the changes in your business processes which will bring about the results you want (in column 2). To know how well these improvement initiatives are working, you’ll simply look at the measures you chose (in column 3) and see if their actual values are getting closer to the target values (column 4).

Many people confuse the initiatives with measures. They’re not the same thing.

What To Do With Your Strategic Plan on a Page

Carry it around with you. Read it everyday. Refresh it as you achieve your targets and results. Adjust it as you discover which improvement initiatives are working and which aren’t. Add project plans for the improvement initiatives, so you know what to do to achieve your Strategic Plan. Celebrate when you do make exciting progress.

Your Strategic Plan on a Page is your map to success.

TAKE ACTION:
Download my Strategic Plan on a Page Template now, and use it to check your existing strategic or operational plan has the essential elements of dust-repellency, or adapt it as your new strategic or operational plan template.

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  1. Moira says:

    Hi Stacey like this article on Strategic Plan layout. It was one of the most useful things I learnt from Kaplan in a strategy focussed organisation -stratgey mapping seminar I went to many years ago. It is that the order you puts things in within a strategic plan document really has a big impact. The traditional approach was to put goals then strategies/intiatives then KPIs and targets. The trap that many then fall into is that the KPI becomes a measure of the initiative being executed not of the outcome or result that you were aiming to achieve through the initiative. Many initiatives could be duly implemented but not have made the difference or achieved the actual result you should really be measuring.

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