Monday, September 14, 2015

An Example of an Operational Plan

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the essential elements of an Operational Plan, the new term I've introduced in my association to describe a document owned by me and my staff that defines how the association will go about achieving the success metrics identified by our Board of Directors. It is made up of the following four elements. Our:

1. SUCCESS INDICATORS, the directional metrics of success determined by our Board, from which we identify our
2. GOALS, the degree or distance each success indicator will be advanced in a given plan cycle, from which we determine our
3. PROGRAM OBJECTIVES, the controllable things staff will achieve in our attempt to accomplish the goals, for each of which we set our
4. ACTION PLANS, the tactical steps we'll take throughout the plan cycle to achieve each program objective.

This week I wanted to provide a concrete example of each of those elements, based on the actual terminology and language my association leadership and staff have determined. As described above, each element is derived from and nests within the element that comes before it. Visually, this can be represented as a kind of organizational chart with our 22 success indicators at the top (we've had a strategic Board retreat and some resulting refinements to our success indicators since I last wrote about 26 of them on June 1, 2015). For each success indicator, at least one specific goal, and sometimes several, is identified, giving us 33 goals on the next level of the organizational chart, followed by 106 program objectives, at least one, and usually more, focused on each of the goals. And finally, supporting each program objective, 106 detailed action plans, describing the work that will be performed to accomplish each objective.

What follows, therefore, is one of 106 possible journeys down that organizational chart, from one specific success indicator to one particular goal to one particular program objective and action plan.

I'll choose the success indicator I ended my June 1 example of our Strategy Agenda with: "Industry Donations," which our Board has recently re-defined as "The number of NFPA Foundation donors and the amount of total donations that support fluid power education and research in universities is increasing."

This gives us the metric we're trying to affect (donors and donations) and the direction we're trying to make them go (increase). From that information, we next have to identify specific goals (how much we want to affect the metric in a given period of time). In this example, we looked as the number of donors and the amount of donations received in our previous fiscal year, and set modest increases as our goal for the current fiscal year: "Compared to last fiscal year, increase the number of Foundation donors from 154 to 160, and the amount of donations received from $817,000 to $828,000."

With the goal in hand, the next step is to identify the program objectives, the controllable things that will be accomplished in order to bring about the goal they are aligned with. We have three program objectives aligned with our example goal. We call one of those objectives "Pascal Society," named after one of the major fundraising programs of our Foundation, and that objective is defined as "Seek to renew membership and grow participation in the Pascal Society."

Finally, aligned with that program objective is a detailed action plan, the discrete tasks that will be performed throughout the year and that will be necessary to achieve the objective. The specific action plan for "Pascal Society" looks like this:

1. After renewal invoices are sent, confirm renewal status of all existing Pascal Society members.
2. Write and produce the 2015 Donor Impact Report.
3. Disseminate 2015 Donor Impact Report at 2015 Industry and Economic Outlook Conference and recognize Pascal Society donors there.
4. Mail 2015 Donor Impact Reports to all renewed Pascal Society members, including personal notes of thanks for specific company employees engaged in specific programs.
5. Send new Pascal Society logos to all members with instructions for use.
6. Identify candidates within the NFPA membership—those who have made large single donations and those with interest/connection to our research goals—and solicit them for Pascal Society membership.
7. Organize Pascal Society recognition and recognition activities at the 2016 Annual Conference, including the special VIP event for Pascal Society Gold members.

With these concrete examples I hope the linkages between the elements of our Operational Plan are more clear. By doing the tasks listed on the "Pascal Society" action plan, we will achieve the program objective of renewing membership and growing participation in the Pascal Society. By achieving that program objective, we increase our chances of achieving our goal of securing 160 donors and $828,000 in donations to our Foundation. And by accomplishing that goal we keep advancing the indicator our Board has defined as closely correlated with the organization's overall success.

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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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