Avoid Land Mines in Your Action Plan - dummies

By Erica Olsen

The design and implementation of your strategic plan depend on the nature and needs of the organization. Some organizations are more political, departmentalized, controversial, or dysfunctional than others. So knowing whether you’re heading into a minefield before you take your first step is crucial. But don’t despair! Your planning efforts can still be wildly successful.

The following potential barriers to your planning, so you can (hopefully) avoid these pitfalls and prevent your planning efforts from blowing up.

Action Planning Land Mine: Limited budget and resources

If you lead a department, often externally imposed resource and operational constraints severely hinder your ability to plan and act autonomously. For example, your budget may be so constrained that even lining up training for your people to develop staff may not be possible. You’re allowed to budget for operational overhead only, and you’re only allowed to go off what was done in the past.

If this is your situation, get creative. Be a change agent. Rework your departmental budget, buddy up with other departments, develop a non-expense option to implement your plan, or start your political positioning to get around your roadblocks.

Technology seems to always be a resource constraint and roadblock. For example, the shipping department may not be able to explain why it needs $3 million for a new shipping system, while the legacy system continues to age and create operational drag.

The current system still works and gets the job done. The fact that a new system is needed has to be defended early and often. For many groups, getting something like this is a multi-year political battle.

Action Planning Land Mine: Alliances and coalitions

Because of resource constraints, you must often ally with other groups and departments to get anything long-term done. You may not think that group work is a barrier, but it is because your goals may not align with the other department’s goals.

To create buy in, you often have to compromise or co-mingle goals and resources. Think of it like going on vacation alone, versus going on vacation with another family. The competing expectations and agendas often muddy the water, and you end up having a different trip, which often happens to departments that are forced to work together because they can’t act alone.

Action Planning Land Mine: Conflicting missions

Department missions often clash with other department missions. At the operational level, planning happens in individual groups, whereas organization-wide strategic planning often happens only at an executive level and rarely at an operational level. So there’s a huge gap between the folks on the top and the people near the work. Within a system, these groups do whatever they want, and they do it without awareness of the larger whole. The exact opposite happens at the executive level. They plan at a 100,000-foot level but have no idea how to actually execute anything or track progress. Successful organizational leaders have to live in that demilitarized zone between.

Action Planning Land Mine: People handling

People are the most important resource in the plan. People add a tremendous amount of value to the equation, but they can also be the biggest obstacle to achieving your goals. When you borrow key players from another department, Murphy’s Law states that they won’t be available when you need them. Keep other departments aware of when you need their help by communicating frequently.

You’ll never be able to do anything alone, so you have to think about others, cater to others, and so on. So sharpen your people-handling skills in all aspects in order to prosper strategically.

Action Planning Land Mine: Departmental identity

You must be able to know your department’s value and identify it for your stakeholders. It may be different depending on the audience. In the organizational environment, the little things matter. Letting another group use your conference room, color printer, laminator, or trucks with a lift-gate result in the right words being whispered in the right ears at meetings you’re not invited to. Know what you have to trade and offer.

Also, know what you have that someone else may find valuable. People can go directly to your chain of command and ask for something that causes you a panic and a loss of resources as you struggle to fulfill a last-minute request. Anticipate their needs and desires and incorporate them into your plan. You simply must understand what outsiders find valuable about you and your organization, or you become a leaf in the wind.

Action Planning Land Mine: Metrics, metrics, metrics

When you’re always asking and pitching for everything you want on a strategic level, you must build in the time, resources, and processes to track everything. Measurements can be an extremely crucial tool to getting what you want. You must be able to prove worth or protection from something that can get you off track at all times. That means you have the data and the fancy reports on tap.

You can say, “Gee, boss, we want to help you, but we’re already overcommitted by 23 percent. In fact, I’d like more people. So if you can get me the staffing I need, maybe I can take this extra thing on.” Hand over a fact sheet that explains it in black and white.