Creating An Operating Plan

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled, How to Create a Strategic Plan – it was actually two posts. One of the comments I received was, “That’s great – how do you create an Operating Plan?” If that's your question, here are a few thoughts for you to consider...

Let’s begin with a quick review:
A Strategic Plan is a document that outlines at least two things – the goals you are pursuing and the primary strategies you’ll pursue to achieve those goals. It seems like several times a year, I find myself in conversations regarding the definition of strategy. Simply stated, think of a strategy as a path you’ll take to achieve your goal. In a previous post, I talked about the metaphor of a trip. Your destination is your goal. The strategy is the path you’ll take to get there. Will you take the back roads, the interstate, or will you fly? All of these are questions of strategy.
The Operating plan, or some would call it the tactical plan, is when you fill in all the details of the journey. If we stay with the trip analogy, there will be many hotels, attractions and restaurants on the journey - which ones will you visit? That is the essence of the Operating Plan. Here’s how you can create your own.
Start with a clear understanding of the strategy. For this example, let’s assume your goal/destination is a 10% sales increase. We’ll pretend that one of the strategies is: Improve the competency of our sales force.
Step One: At this point in the process, you have a tremendous amount of liberty. You and your team can probably come up with hundreds of ideas on how you could do this. And that’s a great place to start. My first suggestion for creating an outstanding tactical plan is to begin with hundreds of ideas to choose from! The most dangerous idea you’ll ever have is when you only have one idea. Only by the process of comparing and contrasting ideas can the most valuable ideas emerge.
Step Two: Decide which ideas have the highest probability of helping you accomplish your strategy. There is no science for this step. Some people like to vote. I have used this voting but prefer not to do it this way. I would much rather have a conversation about the pros and cons of people’s favorite ideas. At the end of the conversation, you need to have a short list of tactics.
Step Three: Decide which are doable within your time constraints and your budget. This may require you to cycle back to your original list to look for less costly or time-consuming options. It may also require you to think about executing your your plan over several years.
Step Four: Assign accountability to execute each activity/tactic. Determine who will be responsible to get the tactic in question done. If you identify multiple tactics, put someone’s name by each one. If you assign specific accountability, your execution will improve dramatically.
Once you’ve done these steps, you’re ready to begin running the play. If you’ve chosen the correct strategy and tactics and execute them diligently, you should get your 10 % sales increase![GLS_Shield]


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