One of my favorite sayings is a Japanese proverb – “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” If impact is the bottom line of the social sector, we have to get from vision to action and hold ourselves accountable to the results. In past blogs, we have covered strategic plans, business plans and related dashboards. To achieve action as well as shared understanding of strategic objectives, we often need to go one step further to map out operational needs and implications. For example, it is one thing to say that you are going to “strengthen internal communications” in a strategic plan, but for this to become reality the process has to be documented in more detail.

To help move strategy to execution, we have developed an action map to help our clients document these details in a visual manner. An action map replaces the need for an operational plan and can change regularly based on progress and feedback. It also assumes that the strategic plan has undertaken the best available external and internal research and analyses. Therefore, the action map can solely be focused on changes needed to implement the strategy. While an action map is more detailed than a strategic plan, the high-level steps delineated within it can be rolled up into a dashboard or created as a standalone document. This helps us measure progress between strategy and action, which is needed for an annual review of the strategic plan.

Planning Processclick image to enlarge

The action map focuses on one strategic objective at a time, which is placed at the top of the map, and showcases the key areas around customer, financial, processes and people in order to achieve the strategic objective. If the external community has broader goals and is connected to your plan, you can also include it.

Action Plansclick image to enlarge

Under each area, you should be able to answer the following questions:

CUSTOMER
  • How does this connect to our value proposition? Should it change? How do we communicate this change?
  • How do we know what is important to our customers/partners, so we can focus on those areas?
  • Are we learning as we go to inform our understanding of our customers/partners’ evolving needs?
  • Are we being supportive of larger community goals?
FINANCIAL
  • How do we create a diversified funding strategy to support this strategy?
  • How do we create a sustainable strategy to support it in the future?
  • If funding is incremental, what gets implemented first?
PROCESSES
  • What programs do we need to change/add/eliminate to align with this objective?
  • What changes in technology are needed to make us more effective?
  • Are we focused on what is most important to our customers and partners? How do we best communicate this?
  • Are we equipped to accomplish this objective?
  • What expectations can staff have related to adding resources?
  • What are the drivers of performance? Will these metrics connect us to our goals as well as the community’s goals?
PEOPLE
  • Do we have the right people in place?
  • Are the appropriate staff and stakeholders aware and supportive of what is required of them?
  • Do they have the appropriate training and support?
  • Do they understand the shift needed to accomplish this objective?

We welcome your thoughts on action maps and other ways to take strategy into execution and hope you’ll join us next week when we discuss Boards Behaving Badly.

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