Strategic and Operational Planning: Two Become One

Strategic and Operational Planning: Two Become One

While they are different in form and function, strategic planning and operational planning must work together. For an organization to optimize human resources, time, energy, finances and more, a company needs both. Strategic planning is the long-term plan for your organization which includes things like the vision, mission, and values of your company. Operational planning is complementary to strategic planning by outlining how to execute on those visions, missions, and values on a daily basis.

Where to Begin

It all starts with strategic planning. To know where your company is going, you need to have a plan. Strategic planning keeps everyone on the same bus. It ensures that your organization heads in the intended direction and that everyone on board understands decisions and objectives. Strategic planning is fluid though, and when done right, it allows business owners to shift and adapt to the changing environments in which they work.

For example, when the senior living industry was starting to take their service promotion to the internet, an intricate part of that was ensuring that applications could be completed online. The industry had to shift toward receiving inquires online and responding to inquires online to provide the best experience possible.

It’s a simple example of how they continued to serve their audience but adapted to the changing climate in which their industry functioned. The actual execution of those online application systems would have been implemented through the operational planning side of things.

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Develop the Roadmap

Operational planning supports the strategic plan by taking the more significant ideas and breaking them down into smaller, more manageable and tangible steps. The operational plan moves the pieces, so the organization functions as expected. The operational plan answers the questions of who, what, when, and where related to the daily functions that take place in your organization.

The strategic plan comes into play when developing your organizational plan because you need to continually ask yourself how a particular function or role moves you closer to your strategic goals. If your goal was to increase the number of residents in your senior living facility, let’s say, then you need to set about making a plan to do that. That plan should be in line with your mission, vision, and goals for the organization. 

If the company’s strategic plan says it wants to contribute to the community efficiently and measurably, how do you increase occupancy while maintaining this goal?

Cooperation and Coordination

Strategic and operational planning go hand in hand. Anyone involved in the strategic planning should have a seat at the operational planning table as well. The operational team needs to be reminded of why they are there in the first place, to guide decisions about how things are carried out on a day-to-day basis: the strategic plan.

Without a guiding vision for your company, it will be hard to make decisions about why you are doing certain business activities. The easiest way to think about strategic and operational planning is this: strategy is the why, and operations are the how.

If you can always answer why you are doing a specific activity in a certain way, you will be able to remain faithful to your overall strategic planning.

Start Early

Whenever possible, strategic plans should be developed at the initiation of a company. Operational planning should follow closely behind. As new employees are added to the mix, ensuring alignment with the strategic values becomes more critical because large enterprises are complex and have many moving parts.

Proper planning at the outset of a company means that hard decisions can be made easier in the long term. Always keep your eye on the prize: mission, vision, and values associated with your strategic plan will help you operate more efficiently.

Examine All Aspects

In the short term, operational plans are more widely used based on the mission, vision, and values of the strategic plan set forth by the company. If you want your operational plan to run smoothly, be diligent about examining processes, roles, responsibilities, and deliverables at all levels. The result doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating positions of those not contributing to the overall strategic plan; it might just say you need to find a better use for some employees, practices, or procedures.

When the strategic plan and the operational plans live in harmony, a company can run on all cylinders. Without a plan, there is usually associated chaos, and it may not be clear if a process is contributing to the overall effectiveness of the company.

The tension between managers and departments can run high. By creating a solid operational plan based on the groundwork of your strategic plan, everyone can look at the same map to see where the company is headed and how they play a part.

The organization can thrive for years to come. Keep the plans updated, review them often, be candid and realistic about what is needed and what is necessary for the success of your organization. You will find synergy in your strategic and operational plans from the outset.