min read

How To Create A Strategic Action Plan In 7 Easy Steps

Article by 
Cascade Team
  —  Published 
January 10, 2024
January 11, 2024

Do you have plenty of goals, but struggle to move closer to targets? Without a strategic action plan, many leaders fail to drive progress, and they waste a lot of time and money trying.

The root of this problem lies in fragmented planning and tracking systems, which causes a lack of visibility and accountability across the organization. In this disconnected environment, critical action items fall through the cracks—and business objectives become an impossible quest.

A strategic action plan and centralized tracking system help you foster a culture of accountability and strategic focus within the organization, helping you align short-term operational needs with long-term strategic goals. 

In this guide, we’ll help you ensure the fast and effective execution of your strategic plans by laying out the seven essential steps of strategic action plans—and how you can do it in a strategy execution platform.

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How Cascade Helps You Build And Execute Strategic Action Plans  

Cascade is a strategy execution software that makes it easy for leaders to bring together planning, execution, and tracking in one place. 

It offers complete visibility into what's happening across disconnected systems, spreadsheets, and project management tools with a clear, central view that unites siloed metrics, initiatives, and investments. 

You won't have to juggle different tools or get lost in details. Instead, you'll see how everyone's work fits into the big picture.

With Cascade, you empower your teams with great focus, visibility, and accountability on all business plans, actions, and objectives. The result? Better decision-making and faster results without wasting resources.  

Businesses like Honeywell, Porsche, and Johnson & Johnson find our platform accelerates results by 30% and saves an average of $20M on previously misaligned projects & resources.

But this success is not by chance. You need a strategic action plan to ensure fast and effective execution of the strategic plan with optimal resource utilization and minimal waste.

Below, we’ll show you how to effectively build, execute, and track your strategic action plans—and how Cascade makes it easier.

7 Critical Steps to Create Successful Strategic Action Plans 

Any Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) worth their salt knows that a strategic plan is just the beginning—you need a strategic action plan to communicate how you will make your plan a reality.

Otherwise, all your best-laid plans will amount to little more than a fancy but soon-forgotten mission statement. 

Let’s dive into the seven key steps to develop, execute, and track strategic action plans:

1. Align your action plan with a strategic plan 

Without clear alignment and relationships, your actions have little impact on the organization’s strategy. In the long run, misaligned efforts in your strategic planning process drain your budget.

Before developing a strategic action plan, CSOs should define strategic objectives and core business metrics. With this foundation, you can build action plans that help teams stay on track toward the organization's strategic goals. 

Most companies struggle with strategic alignment because they rely on disparate systems—like spreadsheets and slide decks. But when you bring everything and everyone together on one platform, you can break down silos between different business units and improve cross-functional collaboration.

👉 Here’s how to do it in Cascade:

You can use Cascade’s Planner to create Focus Areas, strategic objectives, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and targets. When you define your strategic objectives, you can start adding actions (action plans) that will directly contribute to the success of those strategic objectives.

planner view in cascade screenshot
Easily define the elements of your strategic plan with Cascade's Planner feature.
📚Want to learn how to write a strategic plan that gets results? Check our guide.

2. Let teams develop feasible action plans 

Many strategies fail because the teams responsible for executing them aren't involved in the planning process. 

Gallup reports that 85% of employees are disengaged, which is sure to dent productivity and company morale. 

On the other hand, McKinsey reports that initiatives in which employees contribute to development are 3.4 times more likely to succeed. They feel ownership of the plan and are more likely to execute the key action steps. 

You must find ways to empower teams so they can build strategic action plans that align with the overarching strategic objectives. 

To do so, ask:

  • Which mediums will you use to communicate strategic objectives and priorities? (e.g., workshops, live Q&As, etc.) 
  • How can you communicate the right amount of information without burdening people with unnecessary details?
  • How much time does each team have available to build plans and carry out action items?

Cross-functional collaboration and clear communication are vital. An open approach is the only way to develop work plans that consider the actual organization’s situation and capabilities. 

👉 Here’s how to do it in Cascade:

When you share strategic plans with your teams, you provide a platform for employees to contribute ideas, provide feedback, and collaborate on driving the outcomes leadership wants to achieve. 

In Cascade, you can assign a team to a plan when you create a plan from scratch or add teams to an existing plan later through the Planning stage. 

Additionally, you can manage team permissions to keep complete control over who can view or edit plans.

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3. Allocate resources

Even the best strategic action plan will flounder if you don't have the right resources. Specifically, you must ensure your budget, people, partners, and tools are all in sync and high supply.

Of course, getting your ducks in a row and staying on budget is easier said than done. 

Effective resource management will make or break your efforts—especially when it comes to budget. Even if you have deep pockets, you might meet some resistance from employees or key stakeholders. 

As you allocate resources across projects, take the following steps:

  • Consider your revenue goals to accurately estimate how much you need to sell to hit your targets. SMART goals help guide this stage of your operational planning.
  • Collaborate with department heads to assess resources and confirm whether you have enough workforce, equipment, and time available. 
  • List expenses to get a complete picture of all unit economics, from materials and labor to marketing and new equipment. 

The onus is on CSOs and company leaders to do their due diligence. Only then will you be able to effectively allocate resources and communicate the value of the strategic action plans to your teams.

👉 Here’s how to do it in Cascade:

You can link your resources and objectives by using Cascade for budget allocation and tracking. The budget custom field lets you set your allocated, forecast, and spent values. As your teams take action, you can update the relevant values to capture data and see a progress bar of the allocation vs. actuals.

4. Assign owners

Many companies operate with fragmented planning and tracking systems, which poses a significant challenge in monitoring progress—or even keeping tabs on who is responsible for specific action items. 

Without clear accountability in your strategic action plan, progress falls by the wayside, and projects stall. Without ownership, people pass the buck, leaving the whole organization to pay the price when things don’t work out.

Using a strategy execution platform like Cascade introduces a layer of accountability across the organization. As you cultivate an ethos of clear communication and performance tracking, employees understand their roles and impact on business objectives.

👉 Here’s how to do it in Cascade:

You can add owners and collaborators to actions or projects (sets of actions) in Cascade. 

Improve operational clarity by defining one specific owner for every project, KPI, goal, or objective in your plan. This ownership helps you connect people to company goals from the bottom up.

  • The Owners field automatically defaults to the one who creates the action. To change it,  click the owner profile icon, then choose the user from the dropdown list.
  • From the Collaborator area, you can add or manage collaborators to let them add or edit actions, change owners, due dates and targets, add risks and relationships, etc.
assign owners and collaborators in cascade
Assign owners and collaborators in Cascade.

5. Set timelines for action

Parkinson’s Law dictates that work will expand in complexity and perceived importance to fill the time allotted for completion. If your strategic action plan doesn’t have a roadmap charted with precise due dates, it's destined for a prolonged, drawn-out failure. 

Without deadlines, your team has little motivation to act and less understanding of how to prioritize critical initiatives. In the long run, a laissez-faire approach to timelines will lead to bloated projects that drain resources. 

As the wheels of progress grind to a halt, company morale can dip. Not great news for your strategy!

Strategic objectives should have a clear deadline, so every team member knows their duties are time-bound. You must carefully consider the details of each project and the resources available to set a realistic time frame. The goal is to create a sense of urgency and prevent procrastination. 

👉 Here’s how to do it in Cascade:

Cascade lets you add a Start date and End date for action items in your plan, which will set a timeline for your action. Based on the due dates, Cascade calculates the expected progress and target completion time for the action, which helps you gauge its health over time.

You can also set Time Horizons, which enable you to create goals and select predefined date periods (time horizons) that reflect your strategy and governance cycle. 

6. Define how you will measure progress

Many strategic action plans dwindle and die in spreadsheets. While Excel is a familiar tool for many companies, it is inefficient for tracking progress.

The faster you move, the harder it will be to maintain an accurate view of your real-time data. And despite your best efforts, this cumbersome approach is inevitably time-consuming and error-prone. Soon enough, you’ll miss warning signs or opportunities for improvement.

Let’s be blunt—your strategy won’t survive if you aren’t measuring progress with reliable tracking tools. Get these key aspects in place from day one:

  • Clear targets. Each team must have milestones that have concrete numbers. All initiatives, projects, and actions must link so teams can see how they drive progress. 
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These measurable values track your progress toward achieving business objectives.
  • Dashboards and reports. A simple way to measure and visualize the results of your actions and correlate those results to the strategy's overall success (or failure). 

This data-centric approach gives you a clear lens to assess performance. Better yet, you can base your decisions on hard evidence, not just guesswork or gut feeling.

👉 Here’s how to do it in Cascade:

In Cascade, you can track action in several ways—either manually, via milestones, checklists, or by integrating with other business tools. 

Cascade gives you the freedom and flexibility to connect 1000+ business tools, including Jira, HubSpot, Salesforce, and more. Our smart integrations allow you to bring your data together from other apps and plan, manage, and track all your goals in one place.

7. Monitor and review performance  

Gartner reports that 58% of businesses operate with subpar performance monitoring systems. Without adequate systems to analyze the impact of your strategy, it will be impossible to improve it. 

And right here is where many organizations falter. It could be misplaced faith in static reporting tools like Excel or disconnected systems that complicate the real-time collection and data analysis.

The truth is that strategy succeeds through an iterative approach that thrives on continuous monitoring and corrective action. By closely monitoring key performance metrics, you can catch red flags before they become roaring fires. 

Through regular strategy reviews, companies can also identify patterns and trends to equip leaders with the data to make confident decisions.

This ongoing feedback loop allows you to respond to market changes or internal shifts, ensuring the organization remains on track toward its strategic goals.

👉 Here’s how to do it in Cascade:

Once teams start executing action plans, you can track and review progress in Cascade in three ways:

  • By creating custom update templates for teams. Gather quality strategic context by defining the type of information to collect. For example, you can create templates linked to specific updates, goals, or teams. 
  • By monitoring progress using Dashboards. These visualizations help you (and your stakeholders) gauge an accurate picture of your strategic performance by tracking key metrics and critical business information live. 
Example of a dashboard in Cascade.
Example of a dashboard in Cascade.
  • By reviewing progress with Reports. You can select a data set based on the context and narrative you're trying to communicate and present it in an easily shareable format. For instance, you could use Performance reports to communicate with partners about your projects.
example of a report in cascade
Example of a report in Cascade.

Use Cascade To Execute Your Strategic Action Plans Faster 

Strategic action plans help you direct all efforts to stay on track toward your business objectives.

Of course, it’s still a challenge to manage strategy if you have scattered business metrics and siloed teams—unless you use a centralized strategy execution platform.

Cascade brings your operating and financial business-level goals together with your strategy under one roof. As the only platform that spans the entirety of your ecosystem, it makes it easy to understand the relationships between your business inputs and outcomes. 

As you centralize strategy this way, your teams will have better visibility, accountability, and focus—everything your strategy needs to succeed.

Ready to build, execute, and track strategies the smart way? Book a live demo to see how Cascade can accelerate success for your company.

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