Creating strategic initiatives

Okay, so you've written your strategy document and got it signed off by management. Now the hard work begins.

Each of your strategic goals will require one or more initiatives that move the organisation towards that goal. Each initiative needs to be described in enough detail that management feels comfortable that the initiative will (a) work and (b) help deliver the goal or goals in question.

Writing the case for a strategic initiative is just like a cost/benefit analysis, but applied to the long term. They are normally expressed in terms of drivers and benefits.

Drivers are the current "points of pain". They are easily understood issues that are either causing problems now, or are very likely to cause problems in the future.

On the flip side, benefits need to express a long-term, sustainable "plus" from adopting the recommended course of action. Benefits can be:

  • positive, eg the initiative will save money, reduce staff time, or deliver an additional capability
  • defensive, eg the initiative will reduce financial or legal risk, or ensure compliance with a legal requirement

Since benefits are the basis for measuring the success of the initiative, they should express a tangible outcome. "Increased staff morale" is very difficult to measure, but "reduced staff turnover" is a reasonable proxy that is much easier to analyse.

Original version published 23 January 2008.

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