Operational planning definition.
What does operational planning mean? Operational planning creates a detailed roadmap based on a strategic plan.The operational plan aligns timelines, action items and key milestones that finance or the business needs to complete to execute on the strategic plan. In this way, an operational plan outlines the organization’s key objectives and goals and clarifies how the organization will achieve them.
During the operational planning process, finance or the business responsibilities are described in detail based on the timeline for the operational plan. The timeframe should depend on typical organizational velocity; creating an annual operational plan is a fluid, changing process, so keeping clarity and collaboration is vital for success.
A well-conceived business operational plan keeps team members collaborating smoothly, ensures everyone knows what needs to be done and what their part in it is, and guides critical decisions about long-term strategy.
Key steps of operational planning
- Define the goal or vision for the operational plan clearly
- Analyze and identify key business stakeholders, resources and budgets team members, budgets, and resources
- Consistently track and inform team members and stakeholders on progress
- Adapt the operational plan to wider company goals as needed
What Is Operational Planning?
What is operational planning for finance or the business? Operational planning is the result of a team or department working to execute a strategic plan. It is a future-oriented process that maps out department goals, capabilities, and budgets to promote the success of team-based activities designed to support the strategic plan.
Operational business plans are most effective when there is buy-in from the entire team or department, ensuring issues are reported, goals identified and timelines get delivered,, and business collaboration is more effective. When communication across finance and the business exists, operational plans work even more efficiently to ensure that the entire organization reaches its goals.
An example of operational planning would be a manufacturer creating a plan to increase revenue by 30%. Finance partners with sales, the marketing team, operations and other key business areas to align on the strategies needed to support revenue growth and achieve business goals together. Another operational planning example might be a brand looking to introduce a new product. It would need to leverage and expand existing capabilities, harness new tools, and create a roadmap for doing so.
Other operational planning examples in management include mapping business or production output to meet other new goals, planning for new or expanded solutions, sales and operational planning, providing a roadmap or increased clarity surrounding business goals, or creating a strategy for increased business partnership.
Strategic Planning vs Operational Planning
There is a difference between strategic planning, tactical planning, and operational planning. However, strategic, tactical, and operational planning need to be considered together and build upon one another.
What is a strategic plan?
A strategic plan describes the high-level goals, long-term vision, and organizational mission, usually over the next three to five years. It also details the major projects or initiatives that will happen to meet them, and how the organization will measure the goals, broadly. This is a big picture view of goals, but it can’t really show a team how to achieve those goals step-by-step.
What is an operational plan ?
An operational plan (also known as an operations plan, work plan, or operation plan) is a detailed outline of what a team or department will focus on in the immediate future—typically within the upcoming year. The operational plan answers questions about things like weekly goals and tasks, such as what they are generally, what they will achieve, who will do them, and how often.
What is a tactical plan?
Tactical planning is a step organizations or teams sometimes take after they create strategic and operational plans. The idea is to break the plans into smaller goals and objectives, to define them and determine which steps and actions will be most effective in achieving them. In other words, the operational plan may just have set a goal or task for person A about goal 1, but a tactical plan might set forth the detailed steps person A will need to execute every week.
Tactical planning and operational planning differ in the kinds of questions they ask. Operational plans ask how the team should do something so they can both adhere more broadly to the organizational mission and specific strategic goals. Tactical plans ask specific questions about how to accomplish strategic and operational goals. They are the most microscopic version of planning.
In summary, a strategic plan is a business-level, long-term strategy plan over the next three to five years. It is a visionary plan, the big picture. Its focus is not on implementation. An operational plan is smaller in timeline and both scope, and the goal of operational planning is both to describe a more granular view of how to achieve strategic goals and to focus on implementation in the form of weekly actions, specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), etc. A tactical plan is the narrowest view that is focused on implementation only, and things like daily tasks for one person or a small team and smaller goals.
Strategic and operational planning work together; operational planning is an important part of a whole strategy. Tactical planning helps teams achieve their strategic and operational planning goals.
The goal of an operational plan is to give particular tasks to specific departments, not the company as a whole, whereas it is strategic vs operational planning that sets forth long-term goals for the next three to five years.
What is the Operational Planning Process?
Going through the operational planning cycle, keep these best practices and operational planning techniques in mind.
Research and Identify Goals
The goal of an operational plan and its creation process should be to address some foundational questions:
- Start with the strategic plan: how will it shape the actions we take?
- What is the budget? How will it compare to previous years?
- What is the current status, considering budget, resources, and team members? What is the goal status in one, two, three years, etc.?
- How can the team practically achieve the goal? What operational planning methodology informs the approach? What are the operational planning tools we will use?
- What benchmarks should be used to assess our progress? They might include 5-star reviews, customer service cases closed, launch deadlines met, number of goods manufactured, new customers acquired, revenue increases, etc.
Ask team members the questions, and prioritize responses based on how difficult they are to execute, and how critical.
Visualize the Operational Plan
Make sure the vision for the plan is clearly articulated. Clearly defined goals, charts and visualizations, and project management software can help offer a high-level view of tasks and progress for all stakeholders. Identify which operational business planning techniques and tools will work best for achieving the organization’s goals.
Assign People and Budget
The budgeting process in operational planning consists of assigning tasks and allocating resources and budget for team members to complete them. Each piece of the budget should map out to a financial goal in the operational plan with corresponding timetables and deliverables.
Tracking and Informing Progress
Build out a reporting process that corresponds to the clear objectives with goals, targets, deliverables, resource allocation, and timetables in the operational plan. This way the stakeholders can report progress as the plan moves forward.
Adjust the Operational Plan as Needed
A well-conceived operational plan should allow you to understand precisely which activities and aspects of the plan failed to perform. This in turn allows the team to pivot, involve new team members as needed, and continue to the next benchmark with a refined operational plan.
Consider the Right Indicators
Use key performance metrics or indicators that are predictive, not just lagging indicators. You need some lagging indicators such as past sales or attendance figures, but leading indicators such as market trends should also contribute to both reporting progress and adjusting the operational plan.
What Should Operational Planning Include?
Approaches to operational planning vary, but each team has as its main objective producing a functional operational plan that reflects a practical approach to the organization’s mission and strategic plan.
What should an operational plan include? This strategic document should plan all of the daily processes and operations that a business and its teams or departments including marketing, recruitment, and finance need to do to achieve company goals.
A well-defined operational plan should ensure that each manager and employee understands what their specific responsibilities are, and how and when to execute them.
The operation plan itself should have several components:
- A title page. This summarizes the operational plan.
- An executive summary. This provides a few sentences with a rough idea of the overall plan and its basic sections.
- Mission and objectives. This section defines the organization’s broader mission and objectives. It also describes goals and milestones for the coming year that relate to the operational plan.
- KPIs. Evaluate metrics and KPIs that will measure results.
- Financial summary. This offers an overview and a financial breakdown of all projects included in the operational plan to demonstrate there is sufficient capital to execute the plan.
- Hiring plan. Determine how many monthly/quarterly team members to hire across different departments.
- Key assumptions and risks. Provide this risk analysis so mitigation can be performed.
- Next steps. Suggest next steps, if any.
What are the Steps in Operational Planning?
The purpose of the operational planning process is not to generate new goals or plans, but to create an operational plan in support of existing strategic goals:
Start with a strategic plan
Create the strategic plan first. Before considering immediate tasks and day-to-day details, it’s important to see the long-term vision and goals. As the leadership team creates the strategic plan, they determine the position of the organization and develop its strategy. They should also monitor the strategic plan, and adjust it as needed.
Sharpen the scope
Narrow the scope of the operational plan to a department, team, or focus area to ensure it is detail-oriented and targeted. The size of the organization determines the scope of your operational plan. In other words, you start big with the strategic plan, and then narrow down to the operational plan and the focus area of the team who will execute it—and then create various supporting action plans for execution.
Identify key stakeholders
Identify stakeholders in the operational planning process before creating an operational plan. The team members who create the operational plan should lead and inform others around the operational plan, so you’ll need to know who they are before execution.
Create the operational plan
Your operational plan sets forth the timeframe, the goals to achieve, and explains the actions the team will take to achieve those goals on time. It must include objectives, deliverables, quality standards (if any), desired outcomes, operating budget, staffing and resource requirements, and progress and monitoring information.
An organization’s strategic plan sets forth the goal of the marketing team increasing brand awareness by at least 10% in the next year. This will mean increased engagement with potential customers and more eyes on new marketing materials.
This will require support from the design team, who will have new goals: update the website and create new promotional materials. To achieve those goals, they will collaborate with the development team on the update and hire social media engagement team members. The team will use software and management tools to report and track their progress.
Share the operational plan
Share the operational plan with key stakeholders so they understand mission critical goals and the daily tasks that support them. Track progress in real-time for best results. This also allows you to update the operational plan and report on progress as needed to team members and stakeholders. Like project planning, operational planning is never a one-and-done task, but remains a continuous process.
Why is Operational Planning Important?
At the organizational level, project success demands a strong operational plan. Chaos and confusion often reign without an operational plan, as budgets rise and team members lose sight of tasks and deadlines.
The importance of operational planning is in the creation of a single source of truth that enables comprehensive understanding of mission, strategic goals, and how to achieve them. An operational plan helps teams identify areas that cause lack of clarity, missed revenue generation opportunities, inefficient strategies, or areas of reduced business partnership.
What are the Benefits of Operational Planning?
The advantages of operational planning can impact organizations of any size. An operational plan helps teams reach strategic goals by connecting teams and their individual tasks to company goals. A detail-oriented operational plan has many benefits.
It clarifies organizational goals. Operational planning helps leadership define responsibilities, daily tasks, and activities in detail. It also sets out how individual team members support overall department and organizational goals and defines outcomes for them to measure daily tasks against.
It also boosts team productivity. Operational planning enhances efficiency, productivity, and profits by ensuring employees in each department and across the company know their daily responsibilities and objectives.
Operational planning disadvantages include creating an operational plan based on human error, or whose success is overly dependent upon effective coordination of diverse cross-functional teams. Singular focus only on coordination and not connecting the business is a primary disadvantage of implementing an operations planning process.
Who is Responsible for Operational Planning?
Create an operational plan at the department or team level to best precisely capture the roles and tasks. At a larger organization, an operational plan might even be specific to a particular initiative—much like a detailed tactical or work plan.
There several considerations that determine who creates operational plans:
- Scope. For every activity, the operational plan includes the who, what, and when and must be laser-focused on the initiative itself and the team. Watch to ensure scope is not too broad.
- Timeline. An operational plan should cover a quarter, six months, or a fiscal year, depending on organizational speed and velocity.
- Stakeholders. To accurately predict what work to include in the plan, ensure operational planning stakeholders stay close to the work. Finance must unit the business from tactical details to strategic execution.
Typically, the operational plan is the realm of middle-management, in contrast to the top-down execution style from the C-suite the strategic plan receives. Its scope is also narrower and as routine tasks are mapped out, which continuously evolves Changes to the strategic plan will be less frequent.
Given the focus on day-to-day activities, allocation of resources, and tasks, middle-managers are often best-suited to map out and implement the operational plan.
Does Planful Help With Operational Planning?
Yes. Planful’s Continuous Planning platform unites the demand for structured planning originating in finance with the business need for dynamic planning. Planful empowers organizations to make smarter decisions more confidently, rapidly, and strategically and ensures the data collection process for operational planning isn’t a time-consuming, manual process.
Use Planful to build collaborative financial plans that align resources with strategic objectives. Adjust and pivot as business conditions change, model hundreds of different scenarios reliably, and turn annual plans into quarterly or monthly rolling forecasts, all based on what the organization needs now.
Find out more about Planful’s Operational Planning solution here.
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Create an Operational Plan that Makes an Impact
Companies often confuse strategic, tactical, and operational planning. Strategic planning sets your organization’s long-term vision and goals. Tactical planning is the process of figuring out how to achieve your strategic plan. And operational planning links the two, outlining the procedural steps you’ll take to meet your goals. A sound operational plan is critical for achieving success in your organization.
What Is Operational Planning?
Operational planning is the process of creating actionable steps that your team can take to meet the goals in your strategic plan. An operational plan outlines daily, weekly, and monthly tasks for each department or employee. During operational planning, you’ll also create milestones that help you achieve your strategic plan. For example, if your strategic plan aims to grow your customer base by 20%, your operational plan will include incremental steps to gain new leads and customers.
What Are the Benefits of an Operational Plan?
A well-constructed operational plan makes everyone’s jobs easier. The benefits include:
- Clear guidance: With actionable steps for each department, operational plans help teams understand if they are performing well or need to improve.
- Better workflow : Each team knows what they’ll be working on over the month or quarter, and they can adjust their workflow as needed.
- Improves morale : All employees can see how their day-to-day work connects to the company’s broader goals.
Creating an Effective Operational Plan
Operational plans help you hit strategic goals, so start by reviewing your strategic plan. Your operational plan should be specific to a department or team, so your organization will likely have more than one operational plan. Identify the key stakeholders for a particular team: they’ll be best suited to develop the plan, which should include:
- Departmental objectives
- Key performance indicators
- Staffing and budget needs
- Process for tracking and reporting on progress
Once the plan is complete, you can replicate this process for each department. Plans should be shared department-wide for feedback and questions.
Also referred to as departmental goals or objectives, operational goals are the short-term targets that your organization wants to hit. An operational plan includes operational goals and the steps to achieve them. Typically, organizational goals are:
- Tied to a specific department or team
- Tied to a budget line or item
- Tied to a specific short time frame, such as a month or a quarter
Operational Goals Examples
All operational goals should be measurable and actionable. Actionable means your team can achieve them – so the goal cannot be dependent on an outside factor. For example, your IT team may be tasked with training 10 new employees on security best practices each quarter. But if 10 employees aren’t hired in a particular quarter, that operational goal is not actionable.
To be measurable, there must be a clear way to tell if you met your operational goal or not. For example, one operational goal for an accounting team might be to process invoices more quickly. Their accounting software should be able to collect data on how quickly invoices are processed and paid, so the team can measure their performance over time and see if they are working more efficiently.
Share Your Operational Plan
An operational plan shouldn’t be static – it’s a living document. As time goes on, you may need to adjust your operational goals. That isn’t a sign of failure – it means you’re doing a better job of understanding how each team functions and setting your targets accordingly. You should keep your plan up to date and revisit it regularly, whether once a year or at the end of each fiscal quarter. Include key stakeholders in this process so that the plan works for everyone.
Start Your Operational Plan with Spider Impact
Creating an operational plan might seem challenging at first – but once you get started, it can help all your teams run more smoothly. See how Spider Impact helps you define, measure, manage and report on your operational goals. Click for a free test drive or demo .
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What an operating plan is and why you absolutely need one.
Most companies spend valuable time and resources to create strategic plans, giving their best to outline a strategy that establishes a solid long-term vision. While having a strategic plan is necessary, a vast number of organizations often lack a critical strategy element: an operating plan.
An operational business plan outlines the details of your daily operations for over one year. It defines who does what, when they do it, and how they do it. When done well, an operation plan defines how you allocate human, physical, and financial resources to reach short-term objectives that support your larger business goals.
What Is An Operational Plan And Why Is It Important?
An operation plan is an extremely detail-oriented plan that clearly defines how a team or department contributes to reaching company goals. It outlines the daily tasks required for running a business. When properly created, an operating plan makes sure each manager and each employee know their specific obligations, as well as how they should execute them within a defined timeline. Mapping out the day-to-day tasks that ensure a clear path to your business and operational goals is essential to success.
On a daily basis, your operations plan should answer these crucial questions:
- What are the strategies and tasks that need to be completed or achieved?
- Who are the individuals responsible for those tasks and strategies?
- When must each strategy be completed?
- How much will it cost?
Your strategic plan is a manual that ensures your company and all its employees execute day-to-day operations in a way that ensures reaching your long-term business goals.
Operational Planning VS Strategic Planning
Very often, a strategic business plan also functions as an operating plan. The confusing of the two can cause problems because both plans are necessary for any company to achieve its goals.
A strategic plan helps your business outline long-term goals and fulfill the big vision. Operating plans define what processes need to be finished to achieve those goals. An operating plan supports the efforts of a strategic plan and makes sure everyone runs their day-to-day tasks as efficiently as possible. Both are action plans, and since the success of the strategic plan heavily depends on the efficiency of the operating plan, you should create it right after outlining your long-term strategy.
A successful company never chooses between an operational plan and a strategic plan. Instead, market leaders make sure they have both. Simply put, a strategic plan outlines your long-term goals for the future, while an operating plan defines how to get there through daily activities and processes.
The goal of an operating plan is to define how all departments join efforts to achieve your vision.
The Steps Of A Successful Operational Business Plan
You can't create a successful operational plan without clearly defining your operational goals. The template below walks you through several important steps to take if you want to develop a functional operating plan:
- Create your strategic plan first. An operating plan is a necessary tool for achieving the goals you've defined in a strategy, so first, you should make sure your strategic plan is in place.
- Focus on essential goals. All successful operating plan examples stick to one rule—focus on goals that matter the most. A complex plan with multiple unclear goals is hard to follow.
- Instead of lagging, use leading indicators. Lagging indicators will show your efforts are falling short only after you already execute the operations. By contrast, leading indicators include predictive measures that will prevent you from making a mistake in the first place.
- Choose the right KPIs. Defining the appropriate KPIs for your business is essential. You shouldn't develop them all by yourself. Instead, involve the whole team in the process.
- Communication is key. Everyone in the company should learn and understand what metrics you use, why they are important, and what everyone's roles are in working toward your goals.
Note, you can always check out our blog for more successful business tips like this!
Want additional insight? Read 4 Step Guide to Strategic Planning now to learn more
Operational Planning Examples
An operational plan template should help you define and improve the day-to-day actions and processes of your business. Any successful operational plan example indicates that the plans include everything your company does daily to deliver your products or services to customers. They may cover any section, department, and operation. You can find numerous examples of successful operational plan implementation, especially among powerful enterprises.
Let's go over the most common ways of utilizing a proper operational plan:
Planning for Processes and Practices
Businesses often create operational plans for specific processes and practices to ensure they’re meeting objectives in what they deem the important areas. These include efficiency, turnaround time, productivity, cost reduction, waste reduction, sustainability, quality, and customer satisfaction. You can find a successful operating plan example in any department.
Planning As a Strategy Component
Take a look at this operational planning example: let's say a company makes strategic efforts to expand volume production by 50% by the end of the year. The strategic plan will include several critical components: marketing, sales, and operations. The operations part of the plan will include manufacturing, financial, and logistic strategies to achieve a boost in production.
An operational plan is the key element of every goal-oriented organization. Contact The Alternative Board today to schedule a meeting with our team of business advisory services specialists. We will help you produce an effective operations plan that will help you fulfill your long-term business goals.
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Operational Plan: What is it & How to Create it? (Free Template Included)
Want to create an operational plan to ensure smooth implementation of daily activities of your business? No worries, we have got you covered. Read on…
Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark. ~ Richard Cushing
Running a business is quite similar to sailing a ship! You have to make sure that every aspect is working in the correct motion for you to stay afloat. Can you sail if you have no clear vision of where you’re headed, your destination, or how you will get there?
To answer these questions, you might need to create an intuitive operational plan for your business which would work as a lighthouse to guide you through the way and highlight any upcoming risks that could arise in the near future.
An operational plan lucidly describes the business vision and mission! This document is coherently chalked out for the day-to-day running of any business and outlines the operations related to finance, recruitment, marketing, and other resources required for a successful company.
However, crafting such documents can be time-consuming! Therefore, we decided to create a free plug-and-play operational plan template for your team! But before we hop onto our awesome template, let us first understand what exactly is an operation plan and what to include in such documents.
What is an Operational Plan? (Definition)
An operational plan is a strategic document that outlines all the planning related to daily operations and processes required for running a successful business. It entails all the activities that different teams or departments like recruitment, marketing, and finance, need to perform to achieve company goals and objectives.
The main objective of a well-defined operational plan ensures each manager and employee knows their specific responsibilities, as well as how they should execute them within a definite timeline.
Why is an Operational Plan Important?
The whole point of operational planning is to see the effect of your operations on the business’s working in real-time, so you know exactly when to execute your major strategies.
An operational plan helps you identify areas that are not generating enough revenue or are causing losses, and then assists you with formulating the necessary changes. This document also plays a crucial role in keeping all key stakeholders, management, and board members on the same page.
Everyone needs to be aligned with the company’s mission, goals, risks, hiring needs, financial projections, key performance indicators (KPIs), etc. An operational plan will help every department focus on their contribution to the larger vision by bringing all leading members together under one roof!
Read more: Operational Efficiency: Definition, Importance & Ways to Improve it!
How to Create an Operational Plan? Follow these Steps!
Step 1. create a title page.
While writing an operational plan, the first thing to do is to create a title page for it. This provides all the information about the topic at a single glance.
Here, you will include the title of your document, the registered name of your company, the designation, and the name of the person who creates the document.
Step 2. Write an Executive Summary
An executive summary refers to a section that deals with what a topic is all about in a brief manner. This is to ensure that your readers have a rough idea of the content and encourage them to read on.
In this section, you emphasize the gist of your overall plan and provide a concise explanation of all the important sections in a few sentences.
Step 3. Define Mission and Objectives
Define your organization’s mission and determine your company’s goals and objectives.
Ask yourself what the company is trying to accomplish over the next year and what the major goals and milestones are that support the need for this operational plan.
Describe the company mission, vision, and the reasons this plan is important. Have there been changes in the competitive landscape? Have you raised a round of capital?
Doing this will help you evaluate and measure your company’s performance against your missions and objectives and see how well you are doing in terms of achieving or meeting your goals.
Step 4. Provide Key Performance Indicators
In this section, you can break down each part of your business by evaluating all the major KPIs and metrics involved in measuring your results.
Provide proof of the importance of the operational plan by sharing key numbers that support the ideas in this document.
Step 5. Include a Financial Summary
The next section to be included in your operational plan is the financial summary. Here, you can give an overview of all the projects that will be included during the operational plan and include its financial breakdown. Make sure that there is enough capital to execute this plan.
Step 6. Create a Hiring Plan
Your company will have different hiring needs for each department, therefore, it is essential that you create a hiring plan to decide how many team members will be hired across different departments on a monthly/quarterly basis.
Step 7. Determine the Key Assumptions & Risks
No plan is ever free from risks and problems, so it’s important that you determine the risks to the business and address how the company could work towards mitigating those risks.
This will help your employees be prepared for any possible and potential risks and problems that may arise over the course of their projects.
Step 8. Include the Next Steps
Now that you have included all the major sections, it becomes crucial that you mention what’s going to happen next. Share the next steps, which could include the approval process, updates and reporting time frames, etc.
Step 9. Proofread
The last and final step is to proofread your document and ensure that all the major points are intact and the message is properly conveyed.
Check for spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, typos, or poorly constructed sentences. Make a colleague or another person go through your proposal to double-check everything.
Read more: Standard Operating Procedures (SOP): What, Types, and How to Write?
Key Benefits of Creating Your Operational Plan Documentation on Bit.ai
To create an effective operational plan, you need a proficient tool that can help you create, share, and collaborate with stakeholders and work efficiently. This is where Bit comes in!
Bit serves as a central hub where collaborators, content, and communications can be accessed in one all-inclusive document. Managers can use Bit to create an operational plan document, collaborate with the team in real-time, and store all product assets in one place for easy and fast access.
Whether your team is creating the operational plan documents, project documentation, status report, release notes , roadmap, project charter , product requirements, API documentation, product launch marketing documents, pitch decks, business plan, SWOT analysis, competitive research, project management plan, etc, they can easily add spreadsheets, Slideshares, Google Slides, YouTube videos, PDFs, maps, charts, graphs, and more to your documents and make them visually stunning.
Organization of information: Organizational information is often scattered in cloud storage apps, emails, Slack channels, and more. Bit brings all your information in one place by allowing you to organize information in Workspaces and folders. Bring all your documents, media files, and other important company data in one place.
Brand consistency: Focus on the content and let Bit help you with the design and formatting. Bit documents are completely responsive and look great on all devices. With amazing templates and themes, Bit docs provide you with the type of brand and design consistency which is unheard of in the documentation industry
Smart search: Bit has very robust search functionality that allows anyone to search and find any files, images, documents, etc quickly and easily across all of their workspaces. Users can search their digital assets using keywords, titles, descriptions, or tags. They can even search for files based on their source. (i.e., YouTube).
Media Integrations: Companies use an average of 34 SaaS apps! No wonder why most of our time is spent hopping from one app to the next, looking for information. This is why Bit.ai integrates with over 100+ popular applications (YouTube, Typeform, LucidChart, Spotify, Google Drive, etc) to help teams weave information in their documents beyond just text and images.
Recommended power links and files you can add to your operational plan template:
- Google Sheets, OneDrive Excel, Airtable
- Social Media posts
- YouTube, Vimeo
- Draw.io, Lucidcharts
- Sketchfab, Figma, Marvel
- PDFs, PowerPoint in Google Drive/OneDrive
Sharing : Bit documents can be shared in a live state meaning that all changes that you make to the document will update in real-time. If you are sharing your documents with clients, they will always get your most up-to-date changes. You can even embed Bit documents on any website or blog.
Tons of other features: Bit has a plethora of amazing features like document tracking, cloud-upload, templates, and themes, document locking, document expiration, and much more, making it a well-rounded documentation tool.
Bit provides a common workplace for project members to collaborate, document, share their knowledge, brainstorm ideas, store digital assets, and innovate together. The best part is that this knowledge is safely secured in your workspaces and can be shared (or kept private) with anyone in your organization or the public!
Here are some of the man benefits of using Bit:
- Collaborate in real-time
- Interlink operational plan documents and other documents
- Create fully responsive documents
- Create private operational plans only visible to yourself or your team
- Track engagement on shared operational plans with consultants, partners, etc.
Read more: Business Development Plan: What Is It And How To Create A Perfect One?
- Operational Plan Template
To make the process of creating your operational plan documentation easier, we have created a ready-made operational plan template for you! Check it out below:
How to Use the Operational Plan Template with Bit
The process of creating an operational plan on Bit is insanely easy! Just follow these four simple steps to create your document quickly:
Step 1: Create a Bit Account
Go the home page of Bit.ai and click on Get Started for Free or Sign Up to get started. Enter your email address to sign up. Once in, you can create your personal profile.
Step 2: Create a Workspace
Workspaces are where the work gets done. Click on the ‘Create Workspace’ button on the right. A popup will show up prompting you to add a name for your new workspace.
You can create a workspace around a team, department, large project, client, partner, etc. Inside each workspace, you can create an unlimited amount of Bit documents and access your content library (storage area for all of your digital assets – web links, files, cloud files, rich embeds, etc.).
Step 3: Add Team Members
Bit allows your team members to collaborate in real-time and get work done. Collaboration starts at the workspace level.
You create private workspaces by default. However, you can invite others to join you inside of a workspace and collaborate together with the knowledge, projects, documents, and content inside of the workspace.
Step 4: Create Your Desired Document
Once you are in the workspace, click on the ‘ Create New’ button. Select ‘From Template’ in the dropdown. A pop up will display allowing you to select a template from the gallery.
In the search box on the top left corner, you can search for an “operational plan template”. Once your desired template pops up, click on it and click on the “Use Template ” button on the bottom right corner.
That’s it! Your document is ready for use!
Few more templates you might be interested in:
- SWOT Analysis Template
- Transition Plan Template
- Scope of Work Template
- Business Plan Template
- Status Report Template
- Competitor Research Template
- Training Manual Template
- Project Proposal Template
- Company Fact Sheet
- Executive Summary Template
- Pitch Deck Template
🎥Watch this video to learn more👇
Over to You!
Operational plans bring accountability into your everyday tasks. They help you analyze the performance of your business, goals, strategies and identify the resources required to achieve those targets. These documents are a great way of managing other performance measures too like team efficacy, staff optimization, or the number of employees achieving beyond their targets.
Bit is a great tool to manage all essential resources associated with creating an operations plan. It brings all stakeholders under one roof for the smooth execution of the plan. If you need any help with the operational plan template or want to know how Bit can help your business, let us know by tweeting us @bit_docs. Cheers!
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Operational Planning: How to Make an Operations Plan
The operations of your business can be defined as the sum of all the daily activities that you and your team execute to create products or services and engage with your customers, among other critical business functions. While organizing these moving parts might sound difficult, it can be easily done by writing a business operational plan. But before we learn how to make one, let’s first understand what’s the relationship between strategic and operational planning.
Operational Planning vs. Strategic Planning
Operational planning and strategic planning are complementary to each other. This is because strategic plans define the business strategy and the long-term goals for your organization, while operational plans define the steps required to achieve them.
What Is a Strategic Plan?
A strategic plan is a business document that describes the business goals of a company as well as the high-level actions that’ll be taken to achieve them over a time period of 1-3 years.
What Is an Operational Plan?
Operational plans map the daily, weekly or monthly business operations that’ll be executed by the department to complete the goals you’ve previously defined in your strategic plan. Operational plans go deeper into explaining your business operations as they explain roles and responsibilities, timelines and the scope of work.
Operational plans work best when an entire department buys in, assigning due dates for tasks, measuring goals for success, reporting on issues and collaborating effectively. They work even better when there’s a platform like ProjectManager , which facilitates communication across departments to ensure that the machine is running smoothly as each team reaches its benchmark. Get started with ProjectManager for free today.
What Is Operational Planning?
Operational planning is the process of turning strategic plans into operational plans, which simply means breaking down high-level strategic goals and activities into smaller, actionable steps. The main goal of operational planning is to coordinate different departments and layers of management to ensure the whole organization works towards the same objective, which is achieving the goals set forth in the strategic plan .
How to Make an Operational Plan
There’s no single approach to follow when making an operation plan for your business. However, there’s one golden rule: your strategic and operational plans must be aligned. Based on that principle, here are seven steps to make an operational plan.
- Map business processes and workflows: What steps need to be taken at the operations level to accomplish long-term strategic goals?
- Set operational-level goals: Describe what operational-level goals contribute to the achievement of larger strategic goals.
- Determine the operational timeline: Is there any time frame for the achievement of the operational plan?
- Define your resource requirements: Estimate what resources are needed for the execution of the operational plan.
- Estimate the operational budget: Based on your resource requirements, estimate costs and define an operational budget.
- Set a hiring plan: Are there any skills gaps that need to be filled in your organization?
- Set key performance indicators: Define metrics and performance tracking procedures to measure your team’s performance.
Let’s take a look at each of these elements in more depth.
What Should be Included in an Operational Plan?
Your operational plan should describe your business operations as accurately as possible so that internal teams know how the company works and how they can help achieve the larger strategic objectives. Here’s a list of some of the key elements that you’ll need to consider when writing an operational plan.
An executive summary is a brief document that summarizes the content of larger documents like business plans, strategic plans or operation plans. Their main purpose is to provide a quick overview for busy stakeholders.
An operational budget is an estimation of the expected operating costs and revenues for a given time period. As with other types of budget, the operational budget defines the amount of money that’s available to acquire raw materials, equipment or anything else that’s needed for business operations. It’s important to limit your spending to stay below your operational budget, otherwise, your company would run out of resources to execute its normal activities.
It’s essential to align your operational objectives with your strategic objectives. For example, if one of your strategic objectives is to increase sales by 25 percent over the next three years, one possible operational objective would be to hire new sales employees. You should always grab your strategic plan objectives and turn them into one or multiple action items .
Processes & Workflows
Explain the various business processes, workflows and tasks that need to be executed to achieve your operational objectives. Make sure to explain what resources are needed, such as raw materials, equipment or human resources.
It’s important to establish a timeline for your operational plan. In most cases, your operational plan will have the same length as your strategic plan, but in some scenarios, you might create multiple operational plans for specific purposes. Not all operational plans are equal, so the length of your operational timeline will depend on the duration of your projects, workflows and processes.
Find any skills gap there might be in your team. You might need to hire a couple of individuals or even create new departments in order to execute your business workflows.
Quality Assurance and Control
Most companies implement quality assurance and control procedures for a variety of reasons such as customer safety and regulatory compliance. In addition, quality assurance issues can cost your business millions, so establishing quality management protocols is a key step in operational planning.
Key Performance Indicators
It’s important to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the productivity of your business operations. You can define as many KPIs as needed for all your business processes. For example, you can define KPIs for marketing, sales, product development and other key departments in your company. This can include product launch deadlines, number of manufactured goods, number of customer service cases closed, number of 5-star reviews received, number of customers acquired, revenue increased by a certain percentage and so on.
Risks, Assumptions and Constraints
Note any potential risks, assumptions and time or resource constraints that might affect your business operations.
What Are the Benefits of Operational Planning?
Every plan has a massive effect on all team members involved, and those can be to your company’s benefit or to their detriment. If it’s to their detriment, it’s best to find out as soon as possible so you can modify your operational plan and pivot with ease.
But that’s the whole point of operational planning: you get to see the effect of your operations on the business’s bottom line in real time, or at every benchmark, so you know exactly when to pivot. And with a plan that’s as custom to each department as an operational plan, you know exactly where things go wrong and why.
How ProjectManager Can Help with Operational Planning
Creating and implementing a high-quality operational plan is the best way to ensure that your organization starts out a project on the right foot. ProjectManager has award-winning project management tools to help you craft and execute such a plan.
Gantt charts are essential to create and monitor operational plans effectively. ProjectManager helps you access your Gantt chart online so you can add benchmarks for operational performance reviews. You can also create tasks along with dependencies to make the operation a surefire success.
Whether you’re a team of IT system administrators, marketing experts, or engineers, ProjectManager includes robust planning and reporting tools. Plan in sprints, assign due dates, collaborate with team members and track everything with just the click of a button. Plus, we have numerous ready-made project reports that can be generated instantly, including status reports, variance reports, timesheet reports and more.
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- Operations Management: Key Functions, Roles and Skills
- Operational Efficiency: A Quick Guide
- Using Operational Excellence to Be More Productive
Operational planning isn’t done in a silo, and it doesn’t work without the full weight of the team backing it up. Ensure that your department is successful at each benchmark. ProjectManager is an award-winning pm software dedicated to helping businesses smooth out their operational plans for a better year ahead. Sign up for our free 30-day trial today.
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Operational Planning: How to Make an Operational Plan
The presence of a strategic plan is essential to any company, but it's not enough. You need an operational plan for day-to-day work to make sure that the broader organizational goals are within reach.
Operational plans are not only for large enterprises — small businesses and individuals too can benefit from operational planning. According to University Lab Partners , a lack of planning is one of the top reasons that startups fail. What's more, a survey by Gallup found that only about half of employees know what is expected from them at work. Without a robust operational plan in place, organizations are risking losing their best workers and their business success.
In this blog post, we will explain what is an operational plan and show you how to create one without being overwhelmed.
What is an operational plan?
An operational plan is a document that outlines the key objectives and goals of an organization and how to reach them.
The document includes short-term or long-term goals in a clear way so that team members know their responsibilities and have a clear understanding of what needs to be done.
Crafting an operational plan keeps teams on track while guiding them in making crucial decisions about the company's long-term strategy.
Operational planning vs strategic planning
Though related to each other, these two planning strategies differ in their focus.
Operational planning is the process of the day-to-day work to execute your strategy. It ensures you have all the resources and staff necessary to get work done efficiently.
On the other hand, strategic planning is about looking ahead into the future, identifying the upcoming pipeline, and figuring out how you can prepare for it.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, nearly 7 million Americans are self-employed, with an additional 10 million employed by small businesses.
If you're working at a large corporation, chances are your company will have some form of strategic goals in place. However, if you're one of the millions who work remotely and independently, your success will rely on operational planning instead.
What are the key elements of an operational plan?
The success of operational planning largely depends on setting realistic expectations for all teams.
Here are the key elements of a functional operational plan:
- Clearly define the ultimate vision or objective for the plan
- Review and break down the smaller goals for the operating budget, team, and resources required to put the plan into action
- Assign budgets, team members, key stakeholders, and resources
- Monitor progress with consistent reports
- Refine the operational plan and be ready to pivot if needed
Ensure all teams understand the parameters of success. Doing this shows how their work contributes to wider company goals and ensures better decision-making for the business operation.
How to create an operational planning process
Think of an operational plan as a key component in a team puzzle. It provides employees with a manual on how to operate the company.
It should be created in tandem with other foundational documents like an organizational mission statement, vision document, or business strategy. Daily, it can help answer questions such as:
- Who should be working on what?
- How can we mitigate those risks?
- How will resources be assigned for different tasks?
- Are there any internal and external risks facing the business?
To create a successful operational plan, it's important to define goals clearly. Here are several steps that will help you develop a functional operating plan:
Start with the strategic plan
Before defining an operational goal, make sure your strategic objectives are in place and relevant.
Prioritize the most critical activities first
Once these goals have been decided on, prioritize the most critical activities required to achieve these aims.
Stop diluting team efforts and let them focus on the most important goals first. Doing this means everyone works on a smaller set of tasks, instead of spreading themselves thin in multiple areas. It also helps in optimizing available resources.
Use predictive indicators
For a robust operational plan, consider using key performance metrics or indicators that can help you determine project progress and lend visibility to team activities.
While lagging indicators look backward, leading indicators look to the future. Think of the plan as a car — the rear-view mirror would be a lagging indicator, while the windshield would be the leading indicator.
A leading indicator could be a new product, higher customer satisfaction levels, or new markets. Examples of lagging indicators include the number of people who attended an event or the monthly operating expenses for specific departments.
Instead of lagging indicators, use leading indicators. Lagging metrics will show that your efforts are falling short only after you execute the operations.
Leading KPIs include predictive measures that allow early identification of problems before they become critical and impact business performance negatively.
Get team buy-in
The key to defining appropriate KPIs is involving the whole team in the process. Meet to discuss the business goals and figure out what measurements are right for the team instead of working independently or outsourcing them.
Ensure consistent communication
Communication is key. By understanding your company's metrics and what they mean, you'll be able to work together more effectively with colleagues to reach common goals.
Operational plan example
Let’s say that a company plans to increase production volume by 50% at the end of a fiscal year.
When the company goal is clear, the team will make a strategic plan with three main components: marketing, sales, and operations.
This can be further broken down into an operational plan, which will assign resources, teams, budgets, and timelines for different departments such as manufacturing, sourcing, accounts, finance, and logistics to achieve the increase in production. Such a plan should include a financial summary and financial projections as well.
Operational plan template
Think about the example above. The goals and parties involved are clear as part of the operational plan. At the same time, to remain on track, the plan requires continuous analysis and reviews. An operational plan template can be extremely helpful to achieve that.
An operational template can be a simple document that is reused for different plans by the same organization. However, it is also possible and extremely helpful to make use of project management software tools to create one.
For instance, Gantt charts can serve exactly that purpose. Using a Gantt chart as an operational plan template, it is possible to create and manage plans, track changes and edit project-related activities in real time. The chart allows clear visibility for timelines, tasks, responsibilities, and team members.
Operational planning advantages and disadvantages
Most businesses utilize an operational plan to keep track of their daily tasks.
The plan outlines the day-to-day activities for running the organization — teams, managers, and employees are then able to visualize their contribution, which is crucial for reaching company goals.
But every process has two sides. Let’s review the operational planning advantages and disadvantages in more detail.
Operational planning advantages
Clarifies organizational goals.
An operational plan helps managers and department heads define their daily tasks, responsibilities, and activities in detail.
It also illustrates how individual team members contribute to the overall company or department goals. Without a clearly defined plan, managers and employees have no way to measure their daily tasks against predefined outcomes.
Boosts team productivity
Business owners are always looking for ways to increase productivity, which in turn translates into higher profits. One of the best and easiest ways to boost efficiency is through an operational plan.
Employees are more productive when they know their daily objectives and responsibilities. Conversely, if they're unsure of what is required of them, chances are their productivity will suffer.
An operational plan provides this vital information to employees in each department and across the company as a whole.
Enhance organizational profitability
Having a plan helps in keeping projects and teams on track.
When operations are managed properly, teams are able to consistently increase revenue and develop new products.
Innovation pays off. A BCG survey points out that 60% of companies that are committed to innovation report steadily increasing revenues year after year. With an operational plan in place, teams are able to innovate better and faster.
Improves competitive advantages
Competitive advantages are made up of multiple levels and components.
Coordinating the different parts with an operational plan will make your workflows run more smoothly. This allows you to deliver high-quality deliverables on time, creating an outstanding customer experience and keeping you ahead of the competition.
Operational planning disadvantages
Possibility of human error.
Human error is a common problem in manufacturing that can often occur when transitioning from production to sale.
Operations management teams will need to coordinate effectively with diverse cross-functional teams such as finance, accounting, engineering, and human resources. In doing so, each team will have a clear understanding of the end goals of each department.
Interdependency amongst parts
One of the main disadvantages of implementing an operations planning process is that its success depends on coordination across parts.
Plans end up failing due to one part not working, which can have an adverse impact on the subsequent process. Disruptions in one process can end up affecting the entire process, making the entire operational plan useless.
Using Wrike for operational planning
Give your organization a boost by ensuring every project starts off on the right foot.
Wrike's award-winning project management tools help you craft and execute an operational plan template with Gantt charts and various other premade templates .
Establish your operational plan, monitor progress, and be ready to pivot if required. Wrike lets you share real-time data that makes all milestones crystal clear for your team, helping them stay updated and on track.
With Wrike, your team can create and monitor a high-quality operational plan that ensures the achievement of organizational goals. Start a free two-week trial of Wrike to put your operational plan into practice today!
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Strategic planning vs. operational planning: 7 main differences, is your strategic plan also functioning as your operational plan that’s a problem—but both are necessary if you hope to achieve your goals..
Strategic planning and operational planning are both vital to an organization's success. Oftentimes, organizations use both terms to mean the same thing, but they shouldn't.
Are they the same? If not, what’s the difference? Do you need both? We hear these kinds of questions frequently. To help answer them, first we'll walk through the definitions of strategic planning vs. operational planning. Then, we'll explain the main differences between them.
In This Article
What is a strategic plan, what is an operational plan, strategic & operational planning examples, strategic planning vs. operational planning: 7 differences, 1. time period, 2. modification, 4. plan generation, 6. reporting, simplify strategic & operational planning with a single tool, put it into practice.
A strategic plan outlines your mission, vision, and high-level goals for the next three to five years. It also takes into account how you’ll measure those goals, and the major projects you’ll take on to meet them.
An operational plan (also known as a work plan ) is a highly detailed outline of what your department will focus on for the near future—usually the upcoming year. The plan will answer questions - who, what, when, and how much - regarding daily or weekly tasks.
Simply put, your strategic plan shares your vision for the future, while your operational plan lays out how you’ll get there on a daily to weekly basis.
Both concepts describe your company's plans for the future, but in different contexts.
Take Meta, for example (formerly Facebook). The company recently announced that an important part of its strategy will be building a new computing platform called a metaverse—a shared virtual world environment. This is a long-term goal that leader Mark Zuckerberg says is “critical to [the company’s] mission.” The creation of this new metaverse would be considered part of the company’s strategic plan.
To accomplish that goal, Meta needs to derive an operational plan outlining tasks that need to be done. Numerous components are involved in creating such a platform—everything from creating standards and protocols for the virtual world to developing the necessary hardware and software to determining how to monetize the experience, and much, much more. Meta has to detail which specific activities its people need to do in each area and when they’ll need to do them. This operational plan will ensure they meet certain milestones and that the company continues moving in the right direction over the long term.
A simpler strategic and operational planning example: Say you have a strategic plan modeled after the Balanced Scorecard. It names the high-level goals your organization is trying to accomplish in each of the four perspectives. It also includes aligned and linked measures and projects designed to help you achieve your objectives. Based on that strategic plan, each department in your company will then need to develop an operational plan for the projects they are responsible for to determine how the work will get done. Completing those projects will help you stay on track to accomplish your goals.
To clarify the concepts of strategic vs. operational—and help you put them into practice—take a look at seven of the most significant differences between the two ideas:
Your strategic plan outlines long-term goals for the next three to five years. What you’ll be doing to achieve those goals in the shorter term (typically the next fiscal year) is outlined in your operational plan.
Your strategic plan should be fairly weatherproof, but that doesn’t mean it won’t occasionally require modifications. Evaluate your strategic plan yearly to see if it still makes sense in case of dramatic changes happening inside or outside the organization, for example, or unexpected performance results. It’s also possible that new opportunities (or threats) may have arisen in the past year that require consideration.
In contrast, you should reevaluate your operational plan monthly. While your strategy may be able to handle the unexpected, the path to reaching your long-term goals is somewhat fluid.
The goal of your strategic plan is to outline the company’s long-term vision and how all departments should work together to achieve it. Because goals are company-focused, strategic plans are more broad in scope than operational plans.
The goal of an operational plan applies to specific departments, not the company as a whole. There can be overlap between departments, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. Large departments may require multiple operational plans. Because of its narrower focus, an operational plan is inherently more detailed than a strategic plan—it outlines how you’re going to get it all done!
Your organization’s high-level leadership team—the executive team or city council, for instance—is responsible for creating the strategic plan. Once it’s created, the strategic plan will be pushed forward by cross-functional teams who work together to ensure the strategy is successful.
Nine out of 10 organizations fail to execute strategy. Avoid failure with this toolkit.
Every department should have a leader or team of leaders responsible for creating their operational plan. Although each operational plan is designed for a single department, its successful implementation will lead to organization-wide success. For example, your marketing team has a set of activities they use to increase visibility. These activities should translate to more sales opportunities and ultimately more revenue for the organization (which could be goals in your strategic plan).
Having the right people in the room no matter what type of planning you are doing is key. This is especially true if your organization ever needs to adjust their strategic or operational plans because of an unexpected change in the operating environment.
The budget for your strategic plan comes from your strategic budget, not your operational budget. Your organization may implement a Strat-Ex budget that aligns part of your budget directly to your strategic projects or initiatives. This is a different approach than putting a budget against each of your divisions or departments.
The budget for your operational plan comes from your department’s annual budget. If your annual department budget needs to be cut, consider which elements don’t align to your strategic plan and cut those first. For example, if your strategic plan defines a marketing goal of establishing a strong online presence, your trade show budget should receive budget cuts before blog writing does.
When you report on your strategic plan (typically both annually and quarterly), your strategic planning committee or executive team will want to look at how your company is performing on its chosen measures. Depending on the meeting, these discussions should remain fairly high-level so you don’t get bogged down on details.
Your operational reports, on the other hand, outline hundreds of projects or tasks people in the department are working on. Monthly operational reporting meetings give the leadership—and the rest of the department—an indication of each project’s status.
Unlike your strategic report, updates on operational projects can be anecdotal or qualitative (as it’s often difficult to quantify actions that aren’t tied to measures). Some organizations have a running text commentary either in an Excel field or a Word document. This commentary is updated weekly or monthly, even if there are no direct measures for that part of the operational plan.
Your strategic plan revolves around how your organization can be different . What sets you apart from other organizations is your mission and vision; the goals you set tie into those concepts. Thus, a strategic plan distinguishes your organization’s direction as being different from that of other companies.
In contrast, your operational plan revolves around being better operationally. If you can implement and execute your strategy efficiently and effectively, your chances of successfully reaching your business objectives increase significantly.
To be a strategy-focused company, you need both a strategic plan and departmental operational plans. You also need a tool to help manage these aspects.
Notice we said “a” tool—not multiple tools. Many organizations struggle to stay on top of performance in these areas in part because they’re using separate tools that create data silos, making it more difficult to see the big picture, which is simply: Are we on track to reach our long-term goals?
ClearPoint is designed to help your organization track its strategic plan. Our software also has some critical functionality that serves to help you manage your operational plan. ClearPoint is considered the most comprehensive strategy reporting software available on the market because users can:
- Link and align goals to measures and projects to see progress on their strategic plan.
- Track project statuses to see how they impact the strategic plan.
- Set up allstrategic projects to track the same information for purposes of “big-picture” reporting that reveals trends and gaps.
ClearPoint also makes it easy to create and share strategy progress reports— we’ve automated 70% of the reporting process! Whether you (or your cohorts) want a quick glance at progress or a detailed report, you can get the information you need without wasting time or manpower on menial reporting tasks.
If all this sounds like a lot of work, don’t worry—you’re probably already farther along than you think! Most departments have some form of operational work plans in place already. So you shouldn’t need to start from scratch; simply put your current plan into a framework or format that helps you perform at a higher level.
Similarly, if your company doesn’t have a fully fleshed-out strategic plan, we have you covered. By the time you’ve filled out this free toolkit , you’ll have a change agenda ready and a strategy map created—complete with your top-priority goals! Download it below.
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An operational plan (also known as an operations plan, work plan, or operation plan) is a detailed outline of what a team or department will focus on in the
Operational planning is the process of creating actionable steps that your team can take to meet the goals in your strategic plan. An
An operation plan is an extremely detail-oriented plan that clearly defines how a team or department contributes to reaching company goals. It
An operational plan can be defined as a plan prepared by a component of an organization that clearly defines actions it will take to support
An operational plan is a strategic document that outlines all the planning related to daily operations and processes required for running a successful business.
An operational plan can be defined as a plan prepared by a component of an organization that clearly defines actions it will take to support the
Operational planning (OP) is the process of planning strategic goals and objectives to technical goals and objectives. It describes milestones, conditions
Operational planning is the process of turning strategic plans into operational plans, which simply means breaking down high-level strategic
An operational plan is a document that outlines the key objectives and goals of an organization and how to reach them. The document includes
An operational plan (also known as a work plan) is a highly detailed outline of what your department will focus on for the near future—usually the upcoming year