Cross-Functional Learning


Our well-rounded business content is designed for Leaders & Managers to implement change with ease & improve accountability amongst their teams. Here you'll find Articles from thought leaders in their fields, have access to practical Business Templates, learn new skills & expand on skills you already have. Stay informed & proactive...Join Us Today!

Join Now

4 Steps to Effective Strategic Planning & Implementation

By David Shaffer (1630 words)
Posted in Leadership & Teambuilding on March 6, 2013

There are (7) comments permalink

Add to My Toolkit

By David Shaffer, Business Advisor & Executive Coach, David Shaffer Consulting LLC

Most companies schedule their management retreat to develop and establish the strategic direction for the remainder of the year, as well as a 3-5 year outlook. The process, although it can contribute to team building by “getting away” from the daily grind, frequently does not result in strategy. That’s because what starts as a noble intention or cause ends with little to no accountability, letting life return to “normal” soon after the planning meeting.  Effective Strategic Planning Implementation requires accountability both in the creation and management of strategic initiatives.  Here is practical & accountable approach to effective strategic planning and implementation.


ONE: Develop Strategic Initiatives

Many times there is confusion between what initiatives are truly strategic versus what are simply tasks and obstacles that impact the daily operating procedure.  


  • As an example of what not to do: one company identified distribution of various financial reports as a strategic means of raising financial performance. Although the concept may sound strategic it is merely an improvement in task execution, addressing an operational issue rather than a strategy that aligns with the direction of the company. 
  • Here is what you should do: Your strategic planning session should generate and classify two types of initiatives.
    1. A few critical initiatives expected to be implemented in the short term, within the current fiscal year
    2. A few growth initiatives, requiring more exploration in order to lay the foundation for future critical initiative consideration.


Organizations that define more than 5-6 critical initiatives are generally focused on task implementation rather than strategy. Likewise, exploration of more than 2-3 growth initiatives represents a strategic planning outcome that has no direction or focus.


TWO: Assign Accountability

Once both critical and growth initiatives have been defined, individual Project Managers should be assigned to lead the charge, plan the implementation, drive the process & communicate the results.  The use of chartering is a process commonly used by project managers that allows organizations to clearly convert strategy into action while managing accountability.


For each strategic initiative a charter is written, reported against and reviewed regularly by the management team. It is important to note that as a result of exploration efforts, growth initiatives can often become new critical initiatives that require project managers and charters.


THREE: Build Strategic Project Charters

Multiple resources are typically used to implement each strategic initiative. However it is essential that one individual have responsibility and accountability for each project & project charter.


The aggregate of strategic initiatives & associated charters represent the short term and long term implementation of the key strategies. Although they are prepared and managed by different individuals, it is important that the approach is consistent.  So just what does one include in a charter? Let’s take a deeper look.



Description and facts related to the problem, opportunity or situation that the project is going to address.  The background lays out the context of the charter; however the details of the charter are laid out in subsequent sections. The background should refer to discussions generated during the strategic planning session.


Key Challenges

In every endeavor there are generally challenges. This section provides a description of the challenges, obstacles and issues that must be overcome in order to successfully complete the charter (project) and to deliver the benefits.  This is not a description of the tasks, even though carrying out the tasks may be challenging.


Project Overview and Rationale

Description of what the project will accomplish at a high level, and a list of the project objectives and business benefits.

  • Brief example: The objective of this project is to develop and implement a new, automated sales order entry system.  The new system should reduce the time to configure and enter a new order from 4 hours to approximately 20 minutes (objective).  It will significantly reduce order entry errors, increase sales and improve customer satisfaction (benefits).



Description of how the project will be carried out: the team, methodology, and timeframe for carrying out the project.  The description should be a high level and should not duplicate the list of milestones or major deliverables.  



Description of the boundaries of the project: what it will and will not address.


Major Milestones

Milestones should reflect the overall approach and should cover the complete lifecycle of the project.  The list of milestones does not however constitute a complete project plan.  Milestones will be changed and should be updated when the project plan is completed.

Start Date: xx/xx/xxxx                                             End Date:  xx/xx/xxxx

First Major Milestone:                                                               xx/xx/xxxx

  • Major Action:                                                                xx/xx/xxxx


Middle Target Date                                                                   xx/xx/xxxx

  • Major Action:                                                                xx/xx/xxxx
  • Major Action:                                                                xx/xx/xxxx


Milestone close to completion:                                                  xx/xx/xxxx


Major Deliverables: 

List of specific accomplishments, documents, or other tangible outputs of the project.  Deliverables are not the same as objectives or business benefits.  The deliverables may duplicate some of the major milestones (i.e., the completion of a deliverable could be a milestone.)


Stakeholders and Resources 

  • Customer: [Group that will directly benefit from this project.  Could be an internal or external customer or stakeholder group.  Be specific.] 
  • Sponsor: [Executive who has overall responsibility for the project.  Approves the charter and budget.  Heads up Steering Committee as needed.] 
  • Project Manager: [Manager with responsibility for the leadership and day-to-day management of the project.]
  • Outside Resources: [As needed.]
  • Team Members: [Resources assigned to the project who will participate throughout the project.  Do not include SMEs (subject matter experts) or other resources that work on specific tasks or are consulted with during the project.]


Project Budget

Training materials: $ X
Marketing materials:  $ Y
Outside resources:  $ Z


Assumptions, Constraints and Concerns 



  • [Events or conditions that must be in place in order for the project to start or to be completed.]
  • E.g. new marketing manager must be hired and in place by no later than 6/1.           



  • [Limitations that the project must adhere to.]



  • [Events or conditions that may occur, that would impact the successful completion of the project.]
  • E.g., If the pending acquisition closes before 7/31, some of our team resources may be pulled into the integration effort.


The assumptions, constraints and concerns must be specific to the project – not conditions that are necessary for any project.  Examples of conditions that should not be listed are:

  • Having adequate budget, resources and strong support from leadership. (True for any project.)
  • No major economics or business disruptions.  (True for any project.)


FOUR: Monitor & Communicate Progress

Many organizations struggle with the implementation of key initiatives; accountability is frequently a major stumbling block. By assigning Project Managers and the consistent use of project chartering, project plans can be well defined, resourced and monitored. The aggregate results of the charters collectively address the implementation of defined key initiatives.  It is customary that on a weekly basis, each Project Manager reports the status of their charter so that combined project plans are managed by a single source. That is, for quality and consistency the overall progress of the initiatives is maintained in a central repository accessible to the entire management & leadership team.


There are many ways to distill strategic planning into execution. Chartering is a great way to focus on execution while creating accountability & buy-in throughout the process.



{#/pub/images/DavidShafferPhoto.jpg}Written by David Shaffer, Partner and Director Consulting Services, David Shaffer Consulting LLC   Recognized for his ability to effectively integrate all aspects of business including financial management, information systems, infrastructure, sales management, sales strategies and operations. David assists companies from executive strategic planning through operational and business process improvement opportunities to the selection and integration of Management Information Systems solutions. He also supports Private Equity firms in due diligence activities extending from strategic planning into leadership development and CEO mentoring. His range of company support includes start up through fortune 500.


Do you have a question for David?  Post it in our Executive Leadership Community, he will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


Did you find this story informative?  We would like the opportunity to keep you up to date on all of our training articles.  Please register for our newsletter so we can do just that.  

Here are some additional training articles you may be interested in:


At ManagingAmericans.com we encourage members to go in and out of our communities to learn about different areas of business; how to work together, solve problems and improve skills.  Each community details expectations, challenges, success tips, training programs and useful resources. Growing your knowledge base and learning about all areas of business can help you navigate towards success in your career.

Comments (7)

Ahsan Baig posted on: March 7, 2013

Excellent article, I would love to see something relevant to strategic initiative development in local government environment.

Rand Gee posted on: March 7, 2013

Love the article and think the 4 steps are extremely well defined. I think the example of a project charter is one of the best I have seen and certainly a great tool for others. Thanks for bringing this article to light!

John Murphy posted on: March 7, 2013

Good structure to follow - thanks

Karen Stein posted on: March 8, 2013

Great article, strategy needs an execution plan with clear milestones, ownership and accountability, otherwise it's just a pretty PowerPoint presentation. The charter is great, this was often done at Millipore back in the day.

Rand Gee posted on: March 27, 2013

Love the article and think the 4 steps are extremely well defined. I think the example of a project charter is one of the best I have seen and certainly a great tool for others. Thanks for bringing this article to light!

John Murphy posted on: March 27, 2013

Good structure to follow - thanks

Edu articles posted on: August 28, 2013

great posts; steps are well defined here; I think they can works as guidelines for management.

Leave a comment

Not a robot?