Your company’s performance…Be prepared!
Business performance is (still!) a current and key concern of every business manager. Achieving industry standards and maintaining target profitability levels while ensuring that the troops are offered a worklife quality conducive to talent retention are all major challenges.
When it comes to improving team performance, too many managers immediately think of day-to-day operations, without necessarily taking the time to develop a clear and well-structured game plan or, as we like to call it, a “strategic action plan.” But did you know it has been proven that, on average, companies using a clearly defined strategic action plan significantly outperform their competitors? So before leaping into action, be sure to lay the proper groundwork!
What exactly is a strategic action plan?
In its simplest form, a strategic action plan should be developed on an annual or bi-annual basis. It should contain the following five key elements:
1. Corporate objectives for the fiscal year
An annual or bi-annual strategic action plan should explain the corporate objectives regarding sales, profitability levels and employee development. Objectives should be conveyed simply and concisely, from senior management to each of the company’s departments and respective work teams. Sometimes mapping the objectives is required in order to make them easier for company employees to understand.
2. Associated actions
Each strategic objective must include a list of key actions to be implemented during the fiscal year. This may include carrying out improvement initiatives by department or implementing new workplace behaviours, new management tools or new performance indicators. To accelerate organizational improvement, each department should be directly or indirectly involved in the strategic action plan and contribute to it in a coherent way.
3. Implementation leads
A company employee should be assigned to each action included in the strategic plan and should be put in charge of successfully completing the various initiatives. To optimize task assignments among team members, we suggest using the RACI method, among other approaches.
A specific deadline should be assigned to each action. As necessary, a follow-up date can also be attached to each deadline to track the progress of an action or to make sure the results of a particular action are maintained over time. Simply committing to a deadline fosters accountability for an action item.
5. Tracking method
Last, the company’s strategic action plan should include a schedule and a tracking method for overseeing the progress of identified actions. For example, members of the management team may choose to meet in person at the end of each month to assess how an action plan is progressing and quickly make any necessary adjustments.
How to create a strategic action plan
When it comes to defining a strategic action plan, collaborative team work sessions are strongly recommended. Held over the space of several days, brainstorming sessions typically focus on the following four themes:
- The company’s strategic pillars: mission, vision, values
2. Overview of the current situation
3. Overview of the target situation
4. Development of the strategic action plan
During the strategic reflection process, it is not uncommon for managers to turn to external stakeholders such as business advisors. This facilitates discussion among employees involved in the exercise and provides a neutral perspective on the scenarios addressed.
Time for action!
While creating a strategic action plan is a crucial first step in the performance improvement process, the ability to actually implement target actions is equally, if not more, critical. And obviously action is required in order to succeed!
“In business, most strategic implementation failures can be attributed to a lack of structure and follow-through rather than a problem with the strategy itself. Thoroughness is the key!” said Simon Trépanier, a strategy expert with M Groupe Conseil.
|In the field|
At fiscal year-end, the management team at ABC Steel*, a manufacturing company producing metal structures, led a strategic reflection session to establish the key directions for 2018. The two main goals:
The company’s strategic action plan contains the following actions:
Boost sales volumes by 7% over the next 12 months
Improve the gross margin by 2% over the next 12 months
* Actual case: the company name was changed for privacy purposes.
 A wide range of online literature is available on this topic.