Your approach to planning is often the determining factor in whether you find success in your most important endeavors. For this reason, it’s vital to understand the key elements of a strategic plan.
For any business that wants to bring its mission statement to life and achieve yearly objectives, it’s crucial not to leave the planning process to chance. The key elements of a quality plan help you determine how you’ll achieve the goals that make up your mission.
To successfully accomplish any type of goal, you need to have a carefully organized, written plan. Here are the 16 components of what that consists of.
The objective of a plan is its end result, or, the goal in its completed form. The objective should be specific and measurable. By setting a specific and measurable goal for yourself, you ensure that you’ll meet your objective by following each step.
Begin with the end in mind. It’s helpful to base your objective on your mission statement or your company’s vision statement.
As practical as it sounds, few companies designate a clear objective when setting business goals. According to one set of statistics, nine out of 10 companies fail to execute their strategy. Without an objective, it’s nearly impossible for any organization to achieve its goals.
If an objective is a goal in completed form, the purpose is why the goal matters. For you to take ownership over a goal, it’s vital you understand the purpose.
The purpose helps you understand why you are working on achieving this goal. This understanding is crucial for the following reasons:
- Motivation – Purpose provides you with motivation to achieve your goal.
- Energy – Purpose provides you with energy needed to overcome challenges.
- Resource Allocation – Purpose helps you to align your resources with your needs.
- Clarification of Goal – Often, if you dig deeper into your purpose, you realize you had the wrong goal.
- Defines Success – If you don’t know your ultimate purpose, you won’t know when you’ve completed the goal.
Before you can determine how you’ll accomplish your objective, you’ll need to brainstorm. Here are some factors to consider as you begin the brainstorming process:
- Team – This should be a team exercise with all project stakeholders.
- State of Mind – Do whatever it takes to get into the most creative state, whether through music, art, or other methods.
- Quantity – Remember, in this stage, you are looking more for quantity over quality.
- Disorganization –There’s no need to organize anything at this point. This is a non-linear exercise.
- Documentation – Be sure all the ideas are captured on a whiteboard or some other format. The key is to get ideas out of your head and on paper.
- Mind Mapping – This is a popular way to brainstorm. The process entails writing down a key theme, then brainstorming related ideas to it that radiate out from the center of the idea
Consider the resources you need to complete the project. Comparing the resources you have available with the resources you need is a crucial step in the planning process.
Remember, one of the most important jobs of a leader is to allocate resources to ensure an organization gets the highest return on its investment.
In managing resources, time, human capital, and financial capital are a leader’s most important extrinsic resources.
5. Measurement Criteria
There are two crucial factors in the management of a plan:
- Progress on the execution of the plan
- Progress on the objective
2 Forms of Plan Progress Measurement
- Progress of Plan Execution – This measurement refers to the progress of plan execution. To measure this accurately, it’s important to recognize that not every action item carries the same amount of weight in terms of its impact on the plan objective.
- Progress on Plan Objective – These metrics indicate how close you are to achieving a goal. This measurement is crucial for helping you determine if you are making the progress that you should be (i.e., if it’s high quality).
2 Forms of Plan Objective Measurement
- System of Measurement – The type of measurement you’ll use to count or calculate progress (i.e., weight).
- Unit of Measurement – A specific unit/scale that aligns with your goal and that you’ll use in the system of measurement to mark your progress (i.e., pounds).
Other Measures of a Project’s Performance
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) – OKRs are metrics that help you understand both the objective and the key results an organization needs to achieve its mission.
Milestone – An action or event that marks an important stage of development within the completion of a project.
Deliverable – A tangible or intangible good or service a team produces as a result of project execution.
Key Performance Indicator (KPI ) – A performance measurement tool meant to accurately measure a project’s progress.
Gantt Chart – A chart in which a series of horizontal lines show the amount of work or action plans completed in certain periods in comparison to the amount planned for those periods.
Communication strategy is vital to efficient and effective project management.
5 Communication Quality Control Considerations
- Formal vs. Informal – Teams should standardize and schedule formal means of communication. To maintain progress on a project, teams should relay informal communications quickly as people think of new ideas or have issues to resolve.
- Distribution List – Organizations should prepare this for all team members. It may make sense to omit information about senior members of the team or to develop two lists—one with them on and one with them off.
- Meetings – Organizations should regularly hold strategy meetings to update key members of the team on project status.
- Modes of Communication – From the start of a project, team members should agree upon what modes of communication they’ll utilize to execute business plans. It’s also important teams discuss and agree upon specific collaboration tools, such as Google Docs or SharePoint, during the planning stage.
- Management Reports – These are generally one-page reports that summarize and point out key information.
In most projects, long term goals are broken up into a subset of short term “goals.” In the categorization step of the plan, you identify these short-term goals. We refer to this stage as categorization, which is the process of grouping together similar things.
- Objective of the Plan
- Action item 1
- Action item 2
- Category 2
- Action item 1
- Action item 2
10 Step Categorization Process
- Identify the categories utilizing the steps above by comparing like with like.
- Prepare the relevant, corresponding, clear objective.
- At the Category Level, set a clear goal using any of the measurements above (i.e., a deliverable or milestone).
- Prioritize by giving each of the categories a relative weight so that the total of the category weight is equal to 100 percent.
- Decide on the sequence of the categories.
- Schedule a start date.
- Set a deadline.
- Designate one person to complete action items under the category.
- This person can decide whether it makes sense to delegate the entire category or some of the action items within it.
- Decide what resources you need to complete this step.
8. Action Items
Now, it’s time to identify potential action items you’ll need to complete to see the plan through to completion.
Review your brainstorming list for ideas on how your team can meet business objectives. List your action items under the proper category. Put down more items rather than less since you won’t need to complete every item. You’ll prioritize action items later.
Remember, actions should be clear and specific. Clear actions will lead to a higher probability of achieving a goal. Unclear, general actions will create unclear results.
Prioritization is the core of time management. It helps ensure you complete the most important action items first to deliver the highest return on the investment of your resources within a set time frame.
Prioritize each action item within the categories. Also, take care to prioritize which categories will have the highest impact on achieving your objective.
Everyone involved in the goal should have a clear understanding of the action items on the prioritization list. This clarity will help everyone with individual time management in executing the strategic plan. By helping your team identify and understand which priorities have the highest impact on your completion of the goal, you are easily able to hold everyone on your team accountable for the time they spend working on an objective.
Both action items and categories should be put in order of sequence, rather than order of priority.
While you may think it’s intuitive to match the sequence of action items with the priority list in order of operations, it’s a good idea to separate these steps. Depending on circumstances, the order of operations may have a different timeline than the priority list. Make a sequence list based on realistic timelines for every element.
Decide whether you can delegate the category or action on a case-by-case basis. If you can delegate action items to people who specialize in that type of skill, the work they do will have a more positive impact on your progress toward achieving the goal rather than if you choose to do everything yourself.
12. Timelines – Start Lines and Deadlines
Decide on the start lines and deadlines at the category and action item levels. The start line is key to avoiding procrastination.
When choosing deadlines, make sure to leave buffer time to account for things that go wrong. Don’t be overly ambitious when setting the deadline by making it unrealistic for completing the action steps.
At this point, you should have scheduled every action item for every team member.
When scheduling action items, you should operate on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. You should give everyone a realistic amount of time to complete their assignments, but not too much as to encourage procrastination.
The next step is where you begin to make progress: Follow through with the scheduled action items and make sure everyone completes their assignments on time.
Hold regular reviews to ensure your team is making progress at the right pace. This is why measurable goals are so important to the project; they give your team concrete benchmarks for progress.
No strategic plan is meant to be static. Plans are meant to be flexible so you can consistently improve along the way as priorities change.
Since your team is responsible for executing the plan, be sure to get their feedback on your progress. Work to improve the plan by implementing ideas from the group.
The Bottom Line
If you want to successfully accomplish any goal, you need to have a carefully organized, written plan.
The success of any project depends on the quality of the plan. Don’t allow another year to pass where you don’t have a plan for your goals. Anticipate unforeseen obstacles and design solutions to overcome them. Give planning the focus it deserves to ensure success in your organizational or personal life.
If you’d like to develop a clearly defined plan for success in one or more areas of your life, download our ebook, The 10 Step Arootah Success Formula. The Success Formula served as inspiration for this article, and the book goes into a lot more detail about our formula for creating success.
What stood out about this plan for you? Let us know in the comments!