Writing Strategic Objectives is probably the most fun and exciting part of creating your strategic plan. This guide will show you how to breathe life into your vision and your strategy by writing the perfect set of strategic objectives. There is also a link at the bottom of the article that includes examples of good strategic objectives you can use to help you, as you write your own strategic objectives.
This article is part of our mini-series 'How To Write A Strategic Plan'. You can download our free 'How To Write A Strategic Plan' eBook which contains all of the articles from the series.
You can also find the individual articles here:
- How To Write A Strategic Plan: The Cascade Model
- How to Write a Good Vision Statement
- How To Create Company Values
- Creating Strategic Focus Areas
- How To Write Strategic Objectives (This article)
- How To Write An Effective Project
- How To Write KPIs
As always, here's a quick recap of the Cascade Strategy Model and how this post fits into the bigger picture.
What is a Strategic Objective ?
Before we start writing strategic objectives, let's start by defining what it is we're talking about here. A Strategic Objective is a high level statement that outlines what exactly you want to achieve, with a clearly stated deadline. It differs from a Focus Area - in that it is specific in what you want to achieve, has a deadline attached and once completed will be replaced by another, different objective. In other words, it is something that can be tangibly achieved. Your strategic objectives should be attached and contribute to achieving at least one of your Strategic Focus Areas.
The way I like to think of a Strategic Objective is:
If I was meeting with my investors / board - what would be the key programmes / objectives that I would update them on if I only had an hour.
To help you understand how strategic objectives sit within the larger strategic model and the relationship between strategic objectives, focus areas, and projects, we've put together an example below.
Writing Strategic Objectives, How Many Should I Have?
There is, of course, no right answer here - though there are certainly risks if you get the number wrong. Too few and you're probably not stretching yourself. Too many and you're unlikely to achieve them all, which should absolutely be your intent.
As a rule of thumb - if we tie Strategic Objectives into our bigger framework - we would probably suggest having between 3 and 6 Strategic Objectives, per each of your Focus Areas.
How Should I Structure a Strategic Objective?
The main advice here when writing strategic objectives is to keep things simple. Strategic Objectives should be easy to remember and should be understandable by everyone within the organization. That means no jargon (if possible), and keeping them to one sentence long. You can add more detail of course, but you should be able to sum up what you want to achieve quickly and simply.
We suggest a structure as follows:
Action + Detail + Deadline
In other words:
Create the standard for quality bikes by 31st of December 2020
Starting off with a verb forces you to be specific about what you're trying to do, and ensuring you include a deadline will help you to stay on track with progress.
How do I Ensure Accountability?
Depending on the size of your organization, you may want to delegate some degree of accountability for individual Strategic Objectives to your management team. Ultimately, as the leader of your organization's strategy - you still need to be accountable for all of the objectives - but that doesn't mean that you can't share that ownership with someone else.
For Strategic Objectives, we would strongly recommend having a maximum of two co-owners for each, including yourself. Why? Because any more than that, and you risk falling into a situation where people become overly reliant on 'someone else' to own the goal. You can absolutely involve far more people in the delivery - through a series of linked (or cascaded) projects, KPIs and objectives. But you want at most two people being responsible for the ultimate delivery of the Strategic Objective.
Some Final Suggestions and Thoughts
Following the above outline should help get you off to a good start when it comes to writing strategic objectives. Here are just a few more collected thoughts to round things out:
- Don't be afraid to iterate. You probably won't get things right the first time, however sometimes you need to get your Strategic Objectives out on paper to appreciate where the gaps are.
- Involve the people of your organization as early as possible. Don't sit in a room and try to do things yourself. Define your Vision, Values and Focus Areas - and use that to help structure a broader engagement with your team about what your Strategic Objectives should be.
- Consider publishing your Strategic Objectives on your website. Sometimes, for reasons of confidentiality this won't be possible - but for some organizations (such as public sector or not-for-profits) this is a great way to communicate transparently with your stakeholders. Here's an example of how we do this in Cascade using our API: http://www.itsmycity.me
There are a number of scenarios and examples we came up with, so we actually created a separate article with good strategic objectives, you can use as a reference and adjust for your strategic planning. You'll also find examples of objectives in the finance sector, customer satisfaction, product/innovation, people and culture, and operations.
We'd love to hear your additions to this list in the comments below, or via our social media channels! Let us know what techniques you found to work well when writing Strategic Objectives.