Strategic Planning, Meet Strategic Execution

By: Bill Pawlucy, CAE

A strategic plan is only the beginning. Here are the elements you need to move from the drawing board to the dashboard and put your plan into action.

Strategic planning is the first step in the execution of an overall plan. The strategic plan establishes a key process approach to begin thinking about the future of the organization. If the strategic plan is a process, then what is a logical approach to monitoring and tracking results? The results of a strategic plan live in a dashboard that is customized by the organization executing the strategic plan.

The strategic planning dashboard is a tool that provides a snapshot of the organization's progress to its strategic plan at a certain point in time. It monitors execution from the first day that the strategic plan is deployed within the organization. The dashboard is important in that it does the following:

  1. keeps staff on track and focused on the plan
  2. provides the volunteer leaders that are champions of the plan's actions a dashboard to monitor progress to the plan
  3. provides the board with a tool that succinctly sums up progress and allows the board to concentrate on a path moving forward rather than wading through report after report on each strategic item

What is in a dashboard? The following are key items that are essential in any organization's dashboard.

Measurable objectives. List each strategic objective with a measure that makes sense. For example, "achieve 90 percent overall member satisfaction." This makes it clear, measurable and achievable.

Core competencies. List the organization's core competencies related to that strategic goal. These are core competencies that were identified during the strategic planning session. Tying goals to core competencies brings resources that are currently in place to achieve that specific goal.

Long-term and short-term goals. List out and identify that specific goal's short-term and long-term action plans. For example, "short-term: establish training on member needs and expectations" and "long-term: reinforce member focus at each level of the organization."

Human-resource plans. What is it going to take in terms of staff time and consultants to achieve the goals and objectives set? For example, "improve staff training on members' needs, requirements, and expectations."

Key performance indicators. List your actual and future KPIs. For example, "in 2012, achieve a 90 percent customer satisfaction score; in 2013, achieve a 92 percent customer satisfaction score; and in 2016, achieve a 94 percent customer satisfaction score." Listing your KPIs and progressively improving them enables the organization to achieve levels on a year-by-year or even quarter-by-quarter basis.

Outcomes, measures, and results. Finally, list your outcomes, measures, and results in your last column. What this means is that there are supporting charts and graphs that support your progress to the plan in each area. This visual approach allows an at-a-glance view of progress to the goals.

Taking your strategic plan from the drawing board to the dashboard is very doable and required in order to achieve the goals and objectives set during the strategic planning session. Make it simple to start and build on it every year. There are plenty of dashboard samples online and from your colleagues. There is no need to recreate the wheel when samples already exist. As the English cleric Charles Caleb Colton once said, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Flatter a colleague today.

Bill Pawlucy, MPA, CAE, is founder of Association Options, Inc. a company that focuses on practical strategic planning (corporate and nonprofit), management assessments, Baldrige Award process implementation, AMC search and evaluation, facilitation, and governance modeling. He is also the executive director of the International Association of Interviewers and is an appointee to the U.S. Department of Commerce Board of Examiners for the Baldrige Presidential Award. Website: www.associationoptions.com

Bill Pawlucy, CAE