What is an operational plan?
An operational plan is a specific, detailed work plan that identifies how you’ll reach a specific goal or outcome. Usually, operational plans are part of a larger strategic or business plan. The operational plan provides the steps for how the company will reach the goals outlined in the strategic or business plan. Most operational plans identify:
- Who: Who in the company will manage each stage or step of the operational plan.
- What: What specifically the company needs to do to reach the outlined goals.
- When: When each specific task needs to be completed in order to achieve a favorable outcome.
- How: How to reach the set goals, including how the company will use resources like time, money and labor.
Most companies use operational plans as a sort of action plan to reach set strategic goals. Think of strategic or business plans as the end goal and the operational plan as the specific steps to get there.
What are the benefits of an operational plan?
Operational plans provide a number of benefits for companies that use them in addition to broader business or strategic plans. Consider the primary advantages of creating and implementing an operational plan for your company:
- Identifying needs: An operational plan helps you pinpoint business needs and create a plan to resolve them.
- Aligning internal stakeholders: Your operational plan should help to align all the actions and endeavors of your various departments and internal stakeholders.
- Offering structure: The operational plan provides structure and a clear progression of steps to reach your specified goals.
- Maintaining accountability: With an operational plan, everyone involved has a clear description of what they need to do to contribute to the project.
Related: How to Hire a Director of Operations
Examples of operational plans
Operational plans, depending on the scope of the project, can be lengthy documents. Many companies choose to create a summary table graph that outlines the basics of the operational plan for a quick overview. Consider these few examples of operational plan summaries to help you establish your own:
Operational plan summary: Increase sales
This operational plan summary represents the basic steps needed to reach a strategic sales goal:
|Goal: Increase sales by 5%|
|Sales||Identify new leads and increase territory boundaries||Sales up by 5%||Sales team (Marty as lead)||End of Q3|
|Marketing||Find new areas for promotion and increase marketing on current channels||At least 1% of increased sales from marketing||Tonya||Q2|
|Leadership||Improve brand reputation in comparison to competitors||Positive target market surveys||Roberta||Q3|
Operational plan summary: Launch new product
This operational plan summary explains the basics of a step-by-step operations plan for launching a new product:
|Goal: Launch new product|
|Research and development||Design a new product||Bring the new product to market||R&D||Q4 2022|
|Marketing||Create effective promotions at least one year prior to launch||Ensure the interest and attention of the target market||Martha||Q3|
|Manufacturing||Establish manufacturing and distribution channels||Plan to manufacture and distribute in-house or find suitable partners||Tom||Q4|
Elements of a successful operational plan
Operational plans can vary depending on the needs of the company and the specifics of the goal. However, most operational plans include the same key elements:
- Title: Even if your operational plan is a sub-section of a larger strategic plan or business plan, you’ll likely want to indicate what the section is with a title, your company name and the point of contact for any questions about the plan.
- Executive summary: The executive summary briefly describes the plan in a sentence or two. This is also where you’ll include your operational summary graph if you’ve created one.
- Strategic content: Describe how the operational plan contributes directly to the strategic plan or business plan.
- Company objective: List how the operational plan contributes to the company’s long-term goals and objectives.
- Evidence: Describe the evidence, often in the form of key performance indicators or KPIs, you’ll use to assess the success of the plan.
- Financial summary: Provide information about how you’ll fund the operational plan.
- Staffing: Explain which departments or individuals are participating in the plan overall. Describe any new hires you may need to make in order to ensure the completion of the project.
- Risks: Acknowledge any risks the company might be taking as a result of embarking on this operational plan.
- Goals: List the specific goals the operational plan seeks to achieve.