Tactical Planning

We talked a bit in last week's blog about strategic planning and the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) matrix as a good starting point for individuals and teams. Now that we've completed that activity, what's next?

Hopefully, the first pass at the SWOT was high level. Depending on the size of your company, you may want to establish core and steering team charters, and project scope documents for the next steps as each department in the organization may need a SWOT activity that ties back to the corporate activity. For our example, let's make it simple. Here's a SWOT performed by ACME Air Charter: a 10-person operation with 5 pilots, 2 airplanes and 2 maintenance technicians. Their goal? To be the premier charter operator in their region.

The first pass through this exercise won't cover everything -- the more you use the process, the more it matures and the more benefit it yields. As you can see, ACME has identified a couple of problems not the least of which is that their greatest strength: extensive knowledge of the industry and a mature workforce, is also a significant weakness: the need to backfill that maturing workforce in a competitive resource market.

As we mentioned previously, this is a "what" exercise. The next step is to identify how to address each of the items identified in the SWOT through an action plan. As you can see in this example, as a result of the action planning process, the team identified additional items not found in the SWOT: the need for additional sales staff, and an evaluation of aging equipment and aircraft. Each of these areas may potentially launch projects as noted in the column labeled "Next Steps."

A balanced scorecard is an excellent way to provide a snapshot of high-level activities and their KPIs, (Key Performance Indicators) -- or weighted measures.

You'll note a column labeled "Target" with the cells populated with quarterly goals. As with any well managed project, it's important to stay ahead of the activity. If you only revisit your strategic and tactical planning activities annually, you allow little time to establish contingencies for unforeseen events. The column on the far left marked "Status" is a sort of traffic light, alerting the team to items before they become a concern.

Not only is activity monitoring and reporting an essential part of any project management process, studies have shown that monitoring progress against any goal be it professional or personal (fitness, financial, etc.) and documenting that progress regularly goes a long way toward ensuring success.

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[“Does Monitoring Goal Progress Promote Goal Attainment? A Meta-Analysis of the Experimental Evidence,” by Benjamin Harkin, PhD, Thomas Webb, PhD, Betty Chang, PhD, and Yael Benn, PhD, University of Sheffield; Andrew Prestwich, PhD, Mark Conner, PhD, and Ian Kellar, PhD, University of Leeds; and Paschal Sheeran, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Psychological Bulletin, published online Oct. 19, 2015.]

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