An operational plan forms part of the business’s strategic plan and is important for effective business leadership. It describes how the work will be done, the workflow from input to end results, including the resources that will be used along the way, all of which are required for success.
Streamlined business systems also defines how you will deal with risks, and how you will ensure sustainability of the project’s achievements.
An operational plan also explains how, or what portion of, a strategic plan will be put into operation during a given operational period.
What is an Operational Plan?
While strategic planning provides the vision, direction and goals for the business, operational planning translates that into the everyday workflow of the business that will hopefully produce the outcomes defined by the strategy. Simply put, operational planning is the conversion of strategic goals into managed execution. It deals specifically with the internal operations and resources necessary to produce your company’s product or service.
An operational plan addresses four questions:
• Where are we now?
• Where do we want to be?
• How do we get there?
• How do we measure our progress?
The key components of a complete operational plan include:
• Human capital. The staff and skills required to implement your project, as well as current and potential sources of these resources.
• Financial requirements. The funding required to implement your project, your current and potential sources of these funds.
• Risk assessment. What risks exist and how they can be addressed.
• Estimate of project lifespan, sustainability and exit strategy. How long your project will last, when and how you will exit your project, and how you will ensure sustainability of your project’s achievements.
Operational plans should contain:
• Clear objectives
• Activities to be delivered
• Quality standards
• Desired outcomes
• Staffing and resource requirements
• Implementation timetables
• A process for monitoring progress.
Why have an operational plan?
An operational plan is important because it helps your team to:
• Be clear about where you will get the necessary resources.
• Use those resources efficiently.
• Clearly define the most critical resource requirements.
• Reduce risks where possible, and prepare contingency plans where necessary.
• Think about the long-term future of the project, including its sustainability.
Who should prepare an operational plan?
Operational plans should be prepared by the people who will be involved in the implementation. There is often a need for cross-departmental dialogue as plans created by one part of the organization inevitably have implications for other parts.
• A project administrator or finance manager should be involved in defining financial requirements
• Human resources should be involved in assessing HR and capacity needs
• HR (Human resources), IT or operations staff should be engaged in discussions of processes, procedures and systems.
Efficient operational planning and implementation calls for ongoing open communication between the project team and these other staff.