How to make your strategy actionable

Strategic planning is a very complex area of study. It is littered with descriptions of grand visions, philosophical musings, debates about long term versus short term, big picture, small picture, trees versus forests and so on. But how do you make a strategy actionable? Let’s explore.

Most strategies focus on dealing with the main stakeholder groups or, let’s say, they should. Some companies have formal strategic documents. They start off with general quotes like “improve customer satisfaction”, “raise the level of competence in our force”, “be the best at what we do” and such like.

The problem with these is they are very vague. It is hard to work towards something when you are unable to tell that you got there when it actually happens. How do you know you’ve reached the finish line if the finish line is not marked?

Let me propose this: Flowery language in strategic documents notwithstanding, I suggest the following elements of a basic scorecard. A scorecard is a very good tool because it uses measurements to gauge progress. I propose the scorecard in an attempt to cover these specific areas that map to stakeholder groups:

  1. Owners: investors and creditors
  2. Partners: vendors and suppliers
  3. Employees
  4. Government
  5. The Public
  6. Competitors

In each of those areas pick something you want to do for that stakeholder group. In the case of competitors it could be something you want to do “to” them rather than “for” them. You have to make these targets measurable. So you could say something like this:

  1. Owners: raise shareholder value by 3%
  2. Partners: provide preferred vendor process by end of year
  3. Employees: provide sales performance incentive program with target of improving sales by 5%
  4. Government: lobby government to require certification for practitioners in our industry  by end of year
  5. Customers: improve customer service issue resolution by 50% turnaround time
  6. The public: support 5 local schools or community centres by contributing x number of dollars this year
  7. Competitors: improve competitive intelligence capability by hiring a competitive intelligence expert within 6 months. The goal: anticipate major competitor moves by at least 3 months.

Now of course these targets are fictional. I only present them as examples. Also you may need to temper some of your targets because they will all be competing for the same pot of dollars. You may even have to drop one or two from this year’s strategic plan. But you get the idea. We need to be specific about where we’re going.

Once we have that, then we have to measure where we’re at right now. So for the examples I just mentioned, we need to measure:

  1. What is our current shareholder value?
  2. What is our vendor process right now?
  3. What are our sales per salesperson?
  4. What is the state of certification or qualifications in our industry?
  5. What is the turnaround time right now from customer service?
  6. What are we contributing right now to the local community?
  7. How far behind are we now in learning about major competitor moves?

Now that we know where we’re at and where we’re going, we need to map out a plan to get us from A to B. The best tool for this is formal project management processes.

Hope you found this useful. Let me know what you think. Send me your comments.

Thanks for reading.


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