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Plan your way to success [An easy 6 step process]

BY: Brigitte Schwartz|11 June 2019
BLOG| Business leadership and strategy

Ever wondered how the Kardashians rose to lofty heights of fame so rapidly and endearingly? The answer lies in the age-old concepts of planning and execution. Momager (that’s a mom-slash-manager) Kris Jenner had a plan to make her family rich and famous, she executed on that plan single-mindedly and it worked. From trademarking individual brands, to water-tight contracts to regular reinvention, she had it covered. Today her extravagantly wealthy family is a household name in even the most far-flung corners of the globe.


What can we learn from this reality TV success story? That it’s not enough to have a goal... but rather executing a well-thought-through operational plan is what is going to make that goal a reality.



In the business world, operational planning is the term for the process of outlining a clear, documented picture of how you and your team will achieve an organisation’s goals.


An operational plan is generally created by a senior manager and then executed by a functional team. It is different to a strategic plan because while the strategy outlines the visions and direction for your business, the operational plan is all about execution.



Before you start working on your operational plan, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions that will guide you in creating the plan:

  • At what stage is the business now?
  • Where do we want the business to go (i.e. grow)?
  • What are the steps we need to get there?
  • How do we measure if we are successful or not? 


Once you’ve answered these questions, create a document that outlines each of the goals you want to achieve in a step-by-step process.

Step 1

Start by writing down your Desired Outcome, whether it’s ensuring your business unit operates effectively or driving revenue.

Step 2

Write down your current situation. This can include everything that is going well in your business but also everything that needs work. For example, if you run a publishing company, perhaps your publications are beautifully designed with great content but advertising revenue is down and there are no strategies in place for digital assets or brand development.

Step 3

This is where you write down your goals – and you can have as many as you need or want. For each goal, write down exactly what you would like to achieve in as much detail as possible.

Step 4

You’ll need action steps, including a timetable and the resources you will need to achieve each goal. A good way to do this is to separate each goal and then list the action steps, timeframe, resources, and tracking and measurement for each.


An excel spreadsheet or table is an excellent visual tool to help you define each part of the plan to achieve your goal. Something like this:

Step4 - table with action steps

Step 5

Your work isn’t over just yet. In addition to your goals, you’ll need to plan for anything that could go wrong. This is what we’ll call Potential Obstacles. Write down the anticipated potential obstacles you foresee for each goal. You might have one or many, depending on how intricate your goal is.

Step 6

Next, write down solutions to overcome your potential obstacles. Ideally, you should have one solution for each obstacle you’ve written down. 


In order to know whether your operational plan is a success or not, you’ll need to examine the overall strategy and how your plan fits into it. Next, you’ll need to measure the operational plan on a continuous basis against a few key factors by using the S.M.A.R.T. method:

  • S - Specific – Are your goals specific?
  • M - Measurable – Can the actions you take be measured, either in output or data?
  • A - Achievable – Are your goals and action steps achievable in the timeframe you’ve allocated?
  • R - Realistic – Are your goals realistic or simply grand ideas with no way of executing them?
  • T - Time-related – Each of your goals needs to be given as deadline so you can ensure they are completed and not forgotten about.


Remember to keep monitoring, measuring and evaluating your plan. If something is not working as it should, re-evaluate the plan and make the necessary changes so you can get closer to achieving your goals.


SGI has designed a short course to equip you with the skills to take an idea from concept to success by using an effective operational plan. Find out more here: From idea to success (operational planning).

From idea to success


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