nik macmillan  unsplash

How To Build Your Operational Work Plan AFTER the Board Adopts the Strategic Plan

So, you just wrapped up a stellar strategic planning session and the board adopts the new strategic plan. What happens next? The board has exercised its governance role in setting the strategic road map for the organization and now it is staff’s responsibility to put an effective operational work plan in place to execute. 

In order to execute, your operational work plan needs to chart a very clear path over a period of time. Typically, a 12-month period is ideal and then is updated prior to that 12-month period’s end. The operational work plan should identify these seven key items and should also be approved by your board so there is full buy-in:

  1. Goals – Include the goals set and the strategies that align with that goal from the planning session. These are the same goals and strategies that were set with the board during the planning process that were approved.
  2. Tactics – Next, work with your staff and committees to identify the key tactics to accomplish each strategy. These are the little things that make the strategy come to life.
  3. Project Manager – Make sure that the overall project manager is identified who is driving the plan in the organization with staff (typically the Executive Director). In addition, assume that your volunteer president is the plan champion or the “keeper of the plan”. This helps to prevent your president and future presidents bringing their own personal goals to add to the current strategic goals and keeping focus on the ones set during the planning process. See my article on developing a presidential platformas an alternative to a board president developing his or her own set of goals for the organization.
  4. Team Members – Identify the project team members that are contributing to the success of the plan’s execution (typically committee members, board members, staff and other consultants).
  5. Due Date – For each tactic listed under each specific strategy, list a due date and stick to it. As we all know, if someone on the team doesn’t complete their tactic on time it holds up the other team members’ progress. This strict adherence to due dates is very important
  6. Budget – When working through each strategy and assigning tactics, be sure to allocate budget (i.e. cost to print a promotional item, etc.). Having the budget in place will help to prevent surprises in the future and the overall feasibility of that tactic or even strategy.
  7. FTEs – What is sometimes missed in a work plan is the allocation of staff time, or full-time equivalents, to each specific tactic in the strategic plan. Assign them to each tactic and then add the time up to easily see if you have enough staff resources to execute. This will allow you to move quickly to allocate more resources and keep your plan moving forward. It is also a good way to make sure you don’t burn out your staff team. In presenting the operational work plan for approval, ensure that any additional staff, consultant or dollars are approved at this time.

Once you have identified these seven items, map them out in either a spreadsheet or consider using cloud-based technology such as SmartSheet or other system. Using an online project management system helps in several ways:

  • It provides key reminders around dates and other deliverables to those that are helping to execute the plan
  • It manages dependencies so that you can see, at a glance, where the bottlenecks are and make adjustments quicker
  • It does not depend on the Executive Director to gather the information and enter it into a spreadsheet but allows each person, responsible for a specific item, to enter in their own progress, data and any attachments online
  • It allows reports to be generated with as much accuracy as possible as the information is being updated on a regular basis

Your operational work plan should be your guide throughout the year. It should drive progress on your strategic plan while ensuring the appropriate resources are in place. It should also inform your board on progress at a glance, saving time at board meetings by concentrating only on items that are in jeopardy of missing deadlines. Having a strategic plan in place is not enough and can be daunting to execute without a clear plan of action forward. Put your work plan in place now and move your plan into action.