1. What Is an Operational Plan?
2. Creating an Effective Operational Plan
3. Steps to Create a Strong Operational Plan

Steps in how to do an operational plan should incorporate the following as you outline your strategy:

  1. Develop a strategic plan.
  2. Prioritize your goals.
  3. Use leading indicators.
  4. Draw on your organization.
  5. Communication is key.

What Is an Operational Plan?

An operational plan outlines the tasks each employee will need to carry out to accomplish the goals laid out in the strategic plan. The operations section of a business plan expands on the company:

  • Objectives.
  • Timeline.
  • Procedures.

In other words, your operational plan should, clearly and in detail, elaborate on the physical, financial, and human resources you will allocate on a day-to-day basis in support of your company's broader strategic objectives.

Creating an Effective Operational Plan

The best operational plans have a clearly articulated objective that everyone in your company is focused on achieving. Your operational plan will, therefore, be a useful document for your investors. However, it can also help you and your employees by encouraging you to think carefully about deadlines and tactics.

The operations plan should provide answers to the following questions:

  • Which personnel and departments are responsible?
  • What tasks is each employee or department responsible for?
  • Where precisely will daily operations occur?
  • How much should be budgeted to each department to complete these tasks?
  • What are the deadlines for the completion of each task?

An operational plan must have clearly articulated goals. This section should state in clear terms what the company's operational objectives are. Operational objectives should be thought of as your plan to achieve your company's strategic objective. A good operational objective should be:

  • Measurable.
  • Specific.
  • Timely.
  • Realistic.

While each department should have a different operational objective, these should assist in achieving the company's overall objective.

Once you have generated objectives, you must create a strategic plan to meet them. Each department or team must be appropriately resourced. You should think about the following resources:

  • Suppliers.
  • Appropriate equipment and technology.
  • Each department's budget.

In addition to describing the production process, you should describe the operating process in detail. Questions you should answer include:

  • Where will employees be working, and will you need to find additional facilities?
  • Will employees have a set work schedule or flexible hours?
  • Which employees are tasked with ensuring each department completes its objectives?

Steps to Create a Strong Operational Plan

  1. Develop a Strategic Plan: You should already have a strong strategic plan in place before you begin developing an operational plan since the operational plan is the roadmap to achieving your strategic objectives.
  2. Prioritize Your Goals: The simpler an operations plan is, the more likely it is to succeed. Avoid creating an overly complicated operations plan by prioritizing your goals and focusing on the most important ones. Focus on three to five initiatives that are likely to contribute to your long-term goals; then develop metrics that can measure your performance.
  3. Use Leading Indicators: It is important to choose the appropriate key performance indicators, or KPIs. Leading indicators, or predictive measurements that help you to project into the future, are more useful than lagging indicators or measurements of the past, as they help you make adjustments as you go.
  4. Draw on Your Organization: The KPIs you choose will be a critical component of the entire organization's work over the next year. Instead of developing them in a vacuum, you should try to draw on as many points of view within your team as possible. For example, you could hold an annual planning session that encourages team collaboration and discussion to develop your KPIs. Ideally, you should include enough diverse perspectives to strengthen the outcome, but without having too many voices that decision-making becomes unwieldy.
  5. Communication Is Key: It is critical that the entire organization understands why your KPIs were chosen, how they will help you to achieve your objectives, and what each employee's role is in working towards your stated objectives. Therefore, you should create a designated time at the beginning of each year to share your KPIs with your entire organization and get feedback. Getting your team's buy-in is critical, and for this reason, the importance of communication truly cannot be overstated. Additionally, each employee should have the means to track his or her progress toward his or her personal KPIs, whether that is through a dashboard, regular meetings, or some other mechanism.

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