Operational Planning Turns Strategy into Execution

If strategy is your engine, then think of operational planning as the transmission that transfers the power to the wheels for traction.

In several blogs, we have addressed the importance of strategic planning, and why integrators should do it every year. But without execution, a strategic plan is useless.

Often, we do not link our strategy to our budgets or our operating initiatives.  When we do, we inject schizophrenia into our business as we chase diverging objectives.

In one meeting we are talking about what we have to do to achieve our budget. In another meeting we are talking about initiatives to improve our business. And in a different meeting we are talking about all the strategic initiatives we had planned to accomplish in the year.

Stop the insanity!

Get everything into a coherent and aligned plan that I like to call your annual Operating Plan.

Once you have the rhythm of annual strategic planning, you can chart a course of annual objectives that builds on each succeeding year to achieve your overall strategic goal.

Then you can develop an annual operating plan that achieves that year’s objectives. This includes not only the planned business results, but also the limited key initiatives needed to build your companies competency and capability to achieve next year’s plan.

Finally, you then build out an annual operating budget that ties the impact of the operating initiatives to the bottom line.

With this in place, then you have aligned all three elements of our normal business leadership:

  • Running your business to achieve your desired business objectives (typically your budget)
  • Working to improve your business through operating initiatives
  • Working to change your business through strategic initiatives


“What will become painfully obvious to your leadership team when creating an operating plan, is how many things you will have to set aside, or say ‘no’ to, in order to accomplish the critical few.” Joel Harris


This honest conversation will go a long way in helping you succeed in achieving your plan this year.

Operational Planning is an exercise in iteration, as we work to align all three aspects of our business into a coherent actionable plan that we can measure, monitor and modify throughout the year.

Without iteration, we tend to fail in three key areas in our operational planning:

  • First, we simply try to do too much and as result not much gets done.
  • Second, executing our operating plan does not drive us toward our strategy.
  • Third, our qualitative (dare I say “dreams”) do not match the quantitative realities of our budget.

So, please, do not make a single pass and call it done.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this discussion, How to Create an Operating Plan.


By Joel Harris, President at Solutions360.


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