Your company’s performance…Be prepared!

Aug 3, 2018 by Énergir in At work
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[1] method, among other approaches.

4. Deadlines

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:

  1. 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:

  1. Boost sales volumes by 7% over the next 12 months
  2. Improve the gross margin by 2% over the next 12 months

The company’s strategic action plan contains the following actions:

Boost sales volumes by 7% over the next 12 months

  1. Establish a monthly sales budget by product line
  2. Create a weekly sales dashboard
  3. Organize a weekly sales follow-up meeting (team meeting)
  4. Organize a bi-monthly follow-up meeting with representatives (individual meeting)
  5. Ensure sales price increases are aligned with price increases for raw materials
  6. Establish a list of the 15 main clients to be targeted over the next 12 months
  7. Establish a list of corporate activities to be covered over the next 12 months
  8. Update the company’s image
  9. Revamp the prospecting tools
  10. Revamp the website

Improve the gross margin by 2% over the next 12 months

  1. Develop a performance tracking indicator for the plant’s workforce
  2. Create a weekly operations dashboard
  3. For the Production team, ensure that a productivity rate of $180 per hour worked is maintained
  4. Organize a bi-weekly production follow-up meeting (team meeting)
  5. Oversee the implementation of daily active supervision rounds by front-line managers
  6. Improve ABC machine start-up speeds
  7. Reduce the reject rate by 4% for ABC service operations
  8. Oversee the integration of a new supplier for ABC raw materials
  9. Review ABC sector development
  10. Review the development of the ABC workstation

* Actual case: the company name was changed for privacy purposes.

[1] A wide range of online literature is available on this topic.