How to Create Implementable Strategic Objectives

A hand is drawing a line from point A to point B

Strategies that do not get implemented are frustrating for leaders and their stakeholders. To move forward, you need a clear, believable and implementable plan to get from where you are to where you want to be. It must be meaningful; challenging but achievable and worthwhile; and clear and simple enough to communicate effectively across the organization.

The way to achieve the goals of a well-crafted business strategy is to break it down into measurable objectives. Sounds easy…but this is where so many leadership teams fall short. They don’t know how to craft good strategic objectives. Without them, there is no true guide to follow and no way to assign enough accountability.

1. First you need to agree upon where you are. Do you have a common understanding of what “Point A” represents? What is the current situation? What are the key complications that the company faces? How would you describe the critical few implications of not successfully executing your strategic vision?

2. Then you need to agree upon where you are going. What does “Point B” represent? Are you hoping to enter a new market to diversify your offerings? Grow your revenues by 20% and your margins by 15%? More fully engage your workforce to decrease attrition? Whatever your ultimate goal, a successful strategy sets up your organization to succeed; it helps you perform beyond the sum of its parts.

3. Lastly, you need to break up the overall strategy into concise objectives that align with and drive toward each strategic goal. Strategic objectives should be specific, have one clear owner, a specific date for completion and be measurable. The best strategic objectives are communicated in a single sentence that begin with a verb, include an object, a measurable unit and timeline. Recent client examples include:

• Increase our executive sales team by two members in the next six months.
• Improve employee engagement from 76.5 to 82.3 in twelve months.
• Decrease attrition of A Players by 50% in six months.
• Hire and onboard 250 new employees in the next 18 months.
• Grow our top 5 accounts by 18% by Q4.
• Improve average client satisfaction ratings by 3% by the next quarter.

From an approach perspective:

• Just make sure you don’t create too many strategic objectives. In our work over the last twenty years in helping clients craft workable strategic objectives, we have found that between 2 and 4 is the ideal number. You can focus on the few critical moves that will make a difference. Too many and your efforts will be spread too thin and meaningful success is unlikely.

Design the strategic objectives as a team. When you co-create the strategies with your key stakeholders, you engage them in the process and gain their commitment to succeed. This is not the time to work in an ivory tower. Involve the team and they will feel ownership for the outcome. And with their work on the front end, it will be easier to delegate some of the responsibility for results.

Have one owner accountable for each objective. Unless you do, little will get done. It is human nature to work on tasks that have one’s name attached to them. Though you as leader will be held accountable for the entire project, you should assign responsibility for the implementation of each objective. Do not have “two in a box.” While multiple people will most likely be responsible for completing the task, only have one executive team member accountable for the final results.

Create an effective exposure mechanism. There should be regular meetings to monitor, report on and assess progress. Be as transparent with the organization-at-large as you can. Every single employee should have a clear understanding of the company’s strategy and where you stand in achieving it.

With clear, believable and implementable strategic objectives, you will know where to play and what actions to take. This is how a company strategy comes to life.

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