Having a solid operational plan in place can ensure the success of a project, especially at the team level. It is a necessary tool to achieve the goals you have defined in a strategy.
A successful business plan is based on adhering to one crucial rule: “focus on the most important goals.” Indeed, you need to make sure that every aspect is working in the right direction to stay afloat. In addition, an operational plan helps you identify areas that are not generating enough revenue or causing losses, and then helps you formulate the necessary changes. In addition, before you begin your operational planning, you must first ensure that the strategic plan is in place.
What is the operational plan?
An operational plan is a strategic document that defines how different teams or departments, such as recruitment, marketing, and finance, contribute to achieving the different goals and objectives of the company. It summarizes the day-to-day activities necessary for the proper functioning of a business. It describes day-to-day tasks to clearly define how a team contributes to the achievement of business goals.
Difference between strategic and operational planning
The strategic plan consists of setting direction for the organization, designing goals and objectives, and identifying a series of strategies to implement in order for the organization to achieve its objectives. The strategic plan is a general guide for managing the organization according to the priorities and objectives of stakeholders. The strategic plan does NOT stipulate the day-to-day tasks and activities related to the management of the organization.
In contrast, the operational plan presents very detailed information intended to guide people in carrying out the daily tasks necessary to manage the organization. The organization’s management and staff must frequently refer to the operational plan in carrying out their daily work.
How to develop an operational plan?
Since operational plans are developed to allocate funds, resources and personnel for each 1-3 year period, all steps in an operational plan must support this effort.
View the operational plan
As with any project plan, it’s best to start with the vision. Key features of an operational plan include tasks to achieve specific, clearly defined goals , as well as managing your people to ensure it functions optimally. Identify your vision based on these levels, and then you can begin the research phase.
Research and identification of objectives
To start developing your operational plan, start by reviewing your goals. The purpose of an operational plan is to answer five main questions:
What is the budget? Compare last year’s budget to this year’s.
Where is the team? Look at this from the perspective of budget, resources, and team members.
Where does the team want to be? Think about that time next year, two years from now, three years from now, etc.
How do you get the team to do that?
What benchmarks should we use to measure our progress? This can be the time to launch a product, the number of products manufactured, the number of cases closed by customer service, the number of 5-star reviews received, the number of customers acquired, the increase in turnover by a certain percentage, etc.
To answer these questions, you’ll need to ask your team members these questions, and then categorize their answers. Prioritize their responses in a quadrant: the easiest to execute – the most difficult to execute, and the most important to execute ->> the least important to execute. This is when your goals will begin to take shape and become clearer.
Assign a budget and people
Once you’ve defined your goals, it’s important to note that your operational plan budget comes from your department’s annual budget. That said, budget is the first line to consider when you start assigning tasks, resources, and allocating a budget to team members.
Also get feedback at this point, as it may be that someone is better suited to the role you’ve given them, or you may be able to remove unnecessary steps from the process altogether.
Operational Plan Report
Once you’ve developed your operational plan, you need to put a process in place to report on all of this as the plan progresses. It must include clear objectives with deliverables, goals, timelines and the personnel needed to achieve the plan.
Stakeholders, other department heads and management will want to review the progress of your operational plan at each benchmark, whether monthly, quarterly, or project-based; So be sure to report all your findings and make sure management still agrees. Project dashboards can be an easy solution for quick and accurate updates.
Adjust the operational plan if necessary
As with any well-planned project, you should always be ready to pivot. Have you reached a benchmark that did not produce the expected results? With an operational plan, the activities are so detailed that you can now know and understand exactly which part of the plan was not working optimally. Make adjustments, involve team members if necessary, get buy-in from stakeholders, and move on to the next benchmark with your newly refined operational plan.
Such adjustments are easy to make if you had the foresight to develop your plan using project planning software. If you need to make adjustments on an Excel sheet or static Word document, it can take hours to update all the changes.
Operational plans work best when the entire department adheres to them, setting deadlines for tasks, measuring success goals, reporting on issues, and collaborating effectively. They work even better when there is communication between departments to ensure that the whole machine runs smoothly when each team achieves its goal.