Watch the GAP!

How To Avoid the GAP Between The Strategic Business Plan and Operational Plan

Having spent over a decade in this region in business planning and strategic brand marketing, one glaring, operational deficiency that emerges behind lack of success of medium-sized (local) private businesses is the GAP between strategic business goals and actual operational actions.


Most organisations have well-intentioned attempts at achieving business growth. Some undertake inordinate amount of meetings and planning sessions covering analysis of their products and channels and communications etc etc etc.
Yet, when it comes to having a well-articulated and simple strategic view and translating that into a clear roadmap of activities, each of which is aimed at achieving a specific goal, there is a lot left to be desired.

Net result is a lack of focus, and doing the “headless chicken run”.


What causes this effect?

  1. Failure to think strategically—The importance of analysing, thoroughly, each and every aspect of the business, internally and externally, to find key growth areas as well as key issues that may affect the business.
  2. Failure to identify critical success factors— The importance of clearly knowing what are the CSF’s that would deliver success, at an working level.
  3. Failure to have both internal and external focus—Inability to understand the importance of “Risk” not just in financial terms but with regards to “Brand Reputation”.
  4. Lack of long-term commitment—Inability to focus further than the “immediate sales & cash flow” requirements to build strategically.
  5. Senior management reluctance to accept responsibility for tough decisions—(This is a real painful one as it calls into question the management style of the medium-sized businesses)… Tough times call for hard decisions. But at senior management level, one often finds that they shy away from making these tough calls and on the contrary, at times, go into denial.
  6. The plan is too detailed— In the process of trying to detail a strategic direction, many business heads (who are involved in the day-to-day operations) find themselves detailing the “tactics” they would use. As a result, instead of a strategic direction, the output becomes a “tactical plan” wherein the detailing is overwhelming!
  7. The plan is not properly communicated—Lastly (but not the least), if by some miraculous means, a business strategic direction does come about, most unfortunately, it’s not “communicated” OR “explained” to the operational line managers resulting in non-achievement of desired objectives.

So is there a way for the local medium-sized businesses to get out of this “habit”?

YES! To do so, the business owners need to:

  1. Understand that business (Planning, Research, Finance, Governance, & Marketing) needs, specialised expertise. So invest in bringing board individual consultants or employees who have the necessary experience and skills. Having only fresh business grads will not replace years of cross-industry and subject expertise that experience brings.
  2. As business owners, do not “micro-manage” but leave it to the managers you have in and assess based on logical and pre-agreed targets and KPI’s. Get actual performance and goal achievement based. In order to do this trust your employees.
  3. Lastly, understand thoroughly your own business’s strengths and weaknesses before you network to get large contracts. Inability to deliver becomes one of the key reasons for lack of “referral business” and this affects the brand’s reputation over time.

And the senior managers, who are responsible for the deliverables, need to ensure:

  1. That strategic decisions are based on reliable and timely information
  2. That the organisation, as a team, understands the strategic direction and how it affects them and in turn how their work-decisions impact others
  3. Ensure accountability for ensuring execution of initiatives, projects, and tasks
  4. Ensure budgets are calculated based on the strategic direction and the operational plan developed to achieve the strategy.
  5. Ensure that risks are clearly identified on the operational plan based on the strategic direction
  6. Ensure that performance incentive systems are linked to strategy and individual goals are aligned with the organisational goal.

Lastly, the senior managers and the business owners need to make sure that there is a strong senior management commitment i.e. leadership, that promotes a culture of performance management.