Operational Planning In A Nutshell

Operational planning defines how human, financial, and physical resources will be allocated to achieve strategic objectives. That should answer some key questions such as what are the strategies that need to be completed? Who has responsibility for each task? When should the task be completed? What is the timeline? How should progress be measured? How many resources have been allocated to task completion?

Understanding operational planning

In planning, most businesses develop highly detailed strategies enabling them to realize long-term visions.

Unfortunately, these strategies often lack the support of a solid operations plan. While a strategic plan operates in the context of years, an operations plan is concerned with day-to-day tasks.

It should answer questions such as:

  • What are the strategies that need to be completed?
  • Who has responsibility for each task?
  • When should the task be completed? What is the timeline? 
  • How should progress be measured?
  • How many resources have been allocated to task completion?

Developing an operations plan

Developing an operations plan is a matter of following five best practices:

  1. Begin by ensuring that a strong strategic plan is already in place. Writing an operations plan without one is akin to planning a vacation without knowing the destination. 
  2. Focus on the most important goals. Generally speaking, the more complex the goal the less likely it will be reached. Instead, the focus should be on simplification. Break the strategic plan into one-year objectives and determine the key initiatives that will drive success. Examples of key initiatives include new quality control measures, faster delivery times, and more resources devoted to professional development.
  3. Use leading indicators. In operational planning, leading indicators that are predictive measures of success are most effective. Create KPIs based on past success to ensure that milestones are regularly hit during the year.
  4. Don’t develop KPIs in a vacuum. Instead, incorporate a wide gamut of skills and experience as the KPIs are created. In smaller organizations, the entire staff may gather periodically to set intentions for the coming year. In larger organizations, meetings may be held for leadership teams only. In either case, diversity of input is non-negotiable.
  5. Communication is paramount. Every employee must understand KPIs in the context of how they will assist in the organization achieving its goals. The importance of buy-in cannot be overstated. Regular meetings should be held to discuss progress on the personal and organizational level. Meetings also ensure that daily operational tasks maintain alignment with the broader strategic plan.

The key elements of an operations plan

Let’s now take a more specific look at the structure of an operations plan. What should it contain?

A sound operational plan will detail:

  • Strategies – or the key actions that need to be carried out regularly to achieve strategic goals.
  • Timeline – for each goal, it is important to set a timeline that encourages efficiency but that is also realistic.
  • Budget – a budget summary must detail the financial and material resources required to meet each goal.
  • Responsibility – a project manager will typically be responsible for ensuring that each goal is completed on time and within budget. Roles or responsibilities that are delegated to others should be detailed in the plan.
  • KPIs – what does successful action look like? Remember to develop KPIs with input from a diverse range of sources.
  • A backup plan – what happens if circumstances change? Contingency plans should be developed under a sound risk management strategy

Key takeaways:

  • Operational planning details the day-to-day actions that will support broader strategic objectives.
  • Operational planning cannot begin until a strategic plan is in place. In developing the plan, businesses must focus on important goals, use leading indicators, and develop KPIs collaboratively. 
  • Operational planning must detail several crucial elements, including strategies, timeline, budget, responsibility, KPIs, and contingency plans.

Connected Business Concepts

GIST Planning is a relatively easy and lightweight agile approach to product planning that favors autonomous working. GIST Planning is a lean and agile methodology that was created by former Google product manager Itamar Gilad. GIST Planning seeks to address this situation by creating lightweight plans that are responsive and adaptable to change. GIST Planning also improves team velocity, autonomy, and alignment by reducing the pervasive influence of management. It consists of four blocks: goals, ideas, step-projects, and tasks.
Agile Program Management is a means of managing, planning, and coordinating interrelated work in such a way that value delivery is emphasized for all key stakeholders. Agile Program Management (AgilePgM) is a disciplined yet flexible agile approach to managing transformational change within an organization.
A SOAR analysis is a technique that helps businesses at a strategic planning level to: Focus on what they are doing right. Determine which skills could be enhanced. Understand the desires and motivations of their stakeholders.
Strategic analysis is a process to understand the organization’s environment and competitive landscape to formulate informed business decisions, to plan for the organizational structure and long-term direction. Strategic planning is also useful to experiment with business model design and assess the fit with the long-term vision of the business.

Read Next: SWOT Analysis, Personal SWOT Analysis, SOAR Analysis, KPIs, TOWS Matrix, PESTEL Analysis, Porter’s Five Forces.

Main Free Guides:

Scroll to Top