A strategic initiative is not the same as a strategy, but a strategic plan without strategic initiatives is just an open-ended discussion leading to nowhere. Strategic initiatives support strategic goals and objectives.
Note: The Business is ART book goes into this subject in detail, while providing a real life example. Download a free copy of the 1-page strategic plan template described in Business is ART and order the book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. If you’re having trouble putting meaningful strategic plans together, please contact me to see how I can help.
Strategic Planning vs Strategic Management
We commonly think of 4 phases when it comes to strategies. The first 2 fall under the category of strategic planning. The others fall under the category of strategic management.
- Phase 1 – analysis & assessment
- Phase 2 – strategy formulation
- Phase 3 – strategy execution
- Phase 4 – sustainment/management
Strategic initiatives are born in Phase 2, but live and die in Phases 3 and 4. The unfortunate reality, however, is that most businesses never get beyond Phase 2 and many of those never get past Phase 1
Tips for Ensuring Success
The following are some quick tips to ensure your strategic initiatives are successful:
- Focus. It’s OK to identify as many important, value-adding initiatives as possible, but prioritize them. You can’t do them all at once even though you wish you could. Limit yourself to no more than 3 at a time so that you can remain focused.
- Plan accordingly. Strategic initiatives are projects – which mean they have defined start and end dates, defined objectives, defined roles, and resources assigned to those roles. They may even have a budget.
- Assign ownership. Someone has to “own” each initiative. Maybe that’s you. Maybe it’s someone else. Owning it doesn’t necessarily mean “doing it.” It means the owner is responsible for making sure it gets done.
Smart Business Practices vs Strategic Initiatives
Just because something is a smart thing to do does not mean it is necessarily a strategic initiative. As an example, if you are in the business of software development and don’t have well defined release management procedures, you need to implement them.
Some things are just smart things to do that are core to your business, but that doesn’t necessarily make them strategic initiatives.
Consider the Timing
Whether it’s a strategic initiative or not, consider the timing before launching in to it. There never is a perfect time, so don’t wait around for that to come. But, going back to the point about focusing and prioritizing, unless you have unlimited resources, you can’t do it all at once. Something may be a good thing to do…just not right now.
The key is to get it in the queue so that you aren’t continually saying, “Some day.”