Monday, August 17, 2015

The Link to the Operational Plan

I've now covered in a series of blog posts the elements that make up my association's Strategy Agenda--a new term I've introduced to represent the essential work product of our Board of Directors. It describes what we want to achieve and how we will measure our success in achieving it.

Now it's time to turn our attention to the Operational Plan--another new term I've introduced, but this one represents the essential work product of me and my staff. In essence, it describes what we will do to achieve the measures of success defined in our Board's Strategy Agenda.

And the link between the two documents is of utmost importance. If you remember the elements of the Strategy Agenda, I characterized them as a series of nesting dolls, each deriving from the one that preceded it. The mission defines the essential purpose of the organization. The strategic priorities define the core lines of business the association pursues in order to fulfill that mission. The ends statements describe the world you will create within each of those lines of business. And the success indicators are the things you measure to show progress towards those new worlds.

Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that the Operational Plan, which is also comprised of a series of nested elements, picks up directly from where the Strategy Agenda left off. Those success indicators, the metrics by which the success of the organization will be measured, are the largest dolls in which the whole of the Operational Plan will fit. They are, to borrow a phrase, the mission statement of the Operational Plan. Just as the mission defines the purpose of the organization, the success indicators define the purpose of the Operational Plan. Anything and everything we do has to be brought to bear on achieving the success that they define.

Inside my association I sometimes use a dashboard metaphor. Imagine the dashboard of a car, with the various gauges measuring different elements of the car's operation. The speedometer, the tachometer, the fuel gauge--all of them calibrated with performance ranges and a series of floating needles to show where in those ranges you are.

The success indicators are those gauges. And the job of the Operational Plan is to move those needles, to move them in a way to defines optimal performance for the organization.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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