5 Common Misconceptions of Strategic Initiatives
A strategic initiative is a clearly articulated, resourced, and approved project that helps accomplish a strategic objective in the Balanced Scorecard. As we’ve written before, an effective strategic initiative needs a definition, scope, deadlines, accountability, and alignment to a strategic objective. Usually, the process of following that checklist will provide you with a pretty good list of strategic initiatives. However, if you’re still looking at 100+ ongoing projects, you'll need to narrow your list down into something more manageable. Here are a few common red flags to look out for to see if a project may not satisfy the criteria of a strategic initiative.
A Strategic Initiative is not:
- Daily or one-off task or activity – If something can be completed in less than a month, it is not a strategic initiative. Something like a follow-up item from a strategy meeting is more likely to fit the mold a one-off action item.
- Any ongoing project – Just because a project is ongoing doesn’t mean it is strategic. Does it fit all of the criteria of an effective strategic initiative?
- Tactical/steady state – These usually include words like “annual” or “quarterly.” Ongoing work such as the “Annual budgeting process” would be considered an operational process. Remember, strategic initiatives are all about adding to or changing your existing processes. If you can’t think of how to create an end date for the initiative, you may be off base.
- Intention – A proposed initiative with the phrase, “meet quarterly sales goals,” does not adequately represent a new project for your organization. Intentions are better captured as either objectives or measures on your Balanced Scorecard.
- Pet Project – Just because your boss has been nagging you to get something done doesn’t mean it qualifies as a strategic initiative.
Examples of Poorly Constructed Strategic Initiatives:
- "Meet Quarterly Sales Targets"
- "Publish Annual Report"
- "Equipment Replacement" (vs. equipment upgrade)
- "Conduct Annual Policy Review"
Examples of Well Built Strategic Initiatives:
- "Implement revamped sales approach"
- "Roll out automated reporting tools"
- "Put into effect new product inventory software"
- "Implement employee tracking program"
Establishing a consistent definition for what it means to be an initiative as well as definitions for supporting criteria, ground your organization so when you are ready to actually discuss performance there is a single shared language to work from. Ensuring that your initiatives, measures, and objectives accurately meet the appropriate criteria is a necessary foundation for your entire strategy execution system.