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How to bring your strategic plan to life.
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Activating a Strategic Plan

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You know that 3” binder that sits on the shelf and only gets pulled out once a year? For some leaders and teams, the words “strategic plan” have very little meaning. For organizations depending on achievement of specific results to survive and thrive, the strategic plan charts the course for success.

Bringing a strategic plan to life in an organization requires thoughtful chunking and tracking of goals, measures, and actions. Once teams are clear about expected outcomes and the system for reporting results, the strategic plan is activated by team member actions.


Being pulled in multiple and competing directions in an organization is not uncommon. Strategic plans help focus all of our efforts in the same direction. Strategic plans are broad in scope and provide a picture of long-term success. These plans drive the work over multiple years.

Activating a strategic plan begins with converting the broad goals from the plan to annual goals. These are often tracked on an organizational scorecard. The annual goals are measurable and clearly defined action steps are identified. Further chunking of goals occurs as leaders determine quarterly priorities that will ensure success for the year. Teams engage in short cycles of action to build a disciplined cadence of progress. The short cycles align to the quarterly goal-setting process and include weekly adjustment meetings to ensure team actions are achieving the defined aims. Annual progress and results are compared to the strategic plan.


Create a Scorecard

Annual scorecards divide the strategic plan’s big aim priorities into yearly targets of success. Scorecards are developed at the executive level and cascade to all levels in the organization. The process of cascading the executive leader’s scorecard goals creates alignment between organizational expectations and individual measures and actions. A scorecard clearly communicates the goals for the year, the progress measures that tell the team how we are doing, and strategic actions that explain how we will reach the goals. Scorecard goal status is updated on a quarterly basis, along with any needed progress measure and strategic action revisions.

Engage in Short Cycles of Planning  

Short cycle planning involves an intentional review of progress toward annual goals every 45, 60, or 90 days. The process of engaging teams in short cycles requires timely data aligned to quarterly goals so teams can make educated judgements about the probability of hitting the annual targets. Short cycle planning also provides an opportunity to monitor and determine the right strategies for achieving the goals. If data reveal the team is not making sufficient progress to hit annual goals, this is the time for the team to discuss new strategies or strategy adjustments. Annual goals are not changed as a result of short cycle planning, but actions may be modified to ensure success.

Facilitate Adjustment Meetings

The goals of a strategic plan come alive through intentional and focused review and discussion. The weekly adjustment meeting is a dedicated time for team members to report progress toward reaching quarterly goals and mitigate any challenges experienced. During an adjustment meeting, team members share wins, progress toward goals, barriers, assistance needed, and next steps. Like a short cycle planning meeting, adjustment meetings are intended to drive immediate actions that will result in accomplishment of the organization’s goals.

Paint a Picture with Your Team

Fully activating a strategic plan and engaging all employees includes setting the stage and helping your team visualize the destination. How can you paint a picture of what the future will look like once the vision is accomplished? How will you inspire your team to enthusiastically embrace the vision and the strategic plan that outlines the steps needed to accomplish the vision? Create a story to help your employees visualize your organization in 5 years and use your employees in the starring roles. Include the storyline “what right looks like” when there is 100% success by the employees implementing the goals of your organization’s strategic plan. Ask each employee how they see themselves helping to achieve these goals and what immediate actions they will take to make this a reality.