A Better Action Plan

As we approach the strategic planning season, there is a certain level of excitement in the air – at least for those who participate in the planning. Sadly, for your staff, it is often the opposite. Many of them are cringing at the thought of you returning from the planning retreat with a list of new goals to be executed ASAP, without dropping any of the other important goals from last year, and without any additional resources.

We are energized and excited when we leave our strategic planning retreats, and ready to take on the world. We are also susceptible to having our enthusiasm override reality when setting our goals. New strategic goals create stress on your systems, processes, and staff. The enthusiasm will quickly diminish if objective decisions about data, processes, training, and timing are overridden by subjective (and often unrealistic) expectations.

We’ve all been there. We’re excited when we make a board decision to add a service, open a new office, or incorporate new technologies. Not too long after the start date, you start hitting speed bumps, usually from your own internal “deep state”. We often forget there are legal, compliance, compatibility, training, and budgetary issues that can slow down, or even derail a goal.

We recommend a strategic goal snapshot that combines the traditional (overview) aspects of a goal with a quality-based methodology (learn, develop, implement, evaluate) to improve your goal success and better incorporate your goal into your current operation.

Think of the snapshot as dashboard for your strategic goal. As simple as that. We understand each organization uses different tools for project management. You may have a comprehensive system that identifies every little step, resource, and reliance. Please don’t confuse this goal snapshot / dashboard with your project management system. The goal champion will undoubtedly track very detailed and important aspect of the goal. However, most people don’t need, nor have the time for the details. This dashboard becomes a one page communication tool for management, board, and staff.

Start with an overview with the following information:

  • Title of the goal.
  • (What are you trying to accomplish?)
  • Start and target completion dates.
  • Champion and co-champion.
  • (What does success look like? At what cost?)
  • How will this goal help you achieve your vision? (This is not a rhetorical question. If you cannot answer this question, consider killing the goal.)
  • Are there any specific resources required for the goal? (Beyond funding, what training, marketing, system, or staffing resources are necessary for a successful goal?)

The second section of your goal snapshot is a high-level action plan that is quality compliant. When I use the term quality compliant, I’m referring to methodology that ensures that the action items for your goal follow the tenants of a process improvement or quality system. We recommend a Learn, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate model:

Learn  If your goal will impact your customers (as most goals do), make sure you have the data you need to ensure you are implementing the new product or service in the best possible way – from your customer’s perspective.

During the learn phase, you will gather data from your organization (Voice of the Business) and your current and potential customers (Voice of the Customer), to ensure you are aligning the strategic goal with the needs of your organization and customers. This learn phase also helps to ensure you are managing the goal objectively, with data; as opposed to subjectively, which inevitably requires brute force and doesn’t usually end well.

Develop You don’t operate in a silo; and most strategic goals have an impact across departmental lines. Before you go live, you must create processes, service standards, training programs, measurement systems, and your roll-out program. Don’t leave anyone out of the loop. The development phase is also when you have the opportunity to communicate the goal throughout the organization, which increases support and eliminates surprises. Remember, your goal will most likely create some new (permanent) part of your operation. This is your opportunity to prepare the next phase (implementation) for success.

Implement This phase is straight forward. Simply execute the action steps to bring your new technology online, open your new office, or create a new service.


Evaluate Now that you’ve gone live with your new goal, it is time to review your metrics. Are your processes running as expected? Is the goal meeting overall expectations?  As you identify areas for improvement and change, be sure to keep the earlier phases in mind to ensure these changes are properly incorporated into training, process management, and other aspects of your operation.

The goal champion can now hand of the goal to the process owner(s), and the goal is now part of your operation. Now, celebrate your success.

Like any business tool or template, you need to customize this snapshot to meet your specific needs. Try it with your next goal. I’m confident it will help. And, as always, if you ever have questions about our recommendations and perspectives, send Ron a note at ron@ronwoodburyconsulting.com.

About Ron Woodbury

Owner and Founder of Ron Woodbury Consulting.