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How often should you review your strategic initiatives?

by Danny Solow on September 6, 2016

What is the appropriate frequency for strategic initiative reviews?

Your strategic initiatives are where your strategic plan becomes a concrete part of your business.  Balanced Scorecard objectives and measures are critical, but the strategy only becomes operationalized through effective implementation of strategic initiatives.

So when should you review your strategic initiatives?  In the same meetings as your objectives and measures?  How deep do you dive into initiatives and who should be involved in those discussions?

Strategic initiatives should have their own meeting

I've written extensively about the correct frequency of strategy review meetings (it's quarterly), but if you are only discussing strategy once every three months, then you are losing much of the value of your Balanced Scorecard process.  It's healthy to find a middle ground between having infrequent big strategic reviews and more regular meetings to discuss your strategic initiative progress.

Quarterly Strategy Review Meetings (SRMs) tend to focus on your objectives and measures performance, often leaving little time to dive deep into the progress of your initiatives.  Due to time and agenda restraints, initiatives are typically discussed in relation to the performance of the objective without diving into the underlying project plan.

To alleviate the time crunch of SRMs, we've found that monthly strategic initiative reviews effectively accompany quarterly meetings.  Every three months, the strategic initiative review is replaced with the overall strategy review meeting.

A best practice strategy review meeting schedule might look something like:

  • January - Strategic Initiative Review
  • February - Strategic Initiative Review
  • March - Strategy Review Meeting
  • April - Strategic Initiative Review
  • You get the idea...

Strategic initiative review meetings are typically easier than the overall SRM.  There is less data to collect, and initiative project management does not rely on any financial measure availability.

Who's invited?

The participants for strategic initiative reviews tend to be very different than the SRM.  Depending on the organization size and leadership hierarchy, the SRM may only include strategic objective champions, and often the initiative owners are not present.  When solely reviewing initiatives, the participants should include an objective owner, the initiative owner(s), and the milestone/task owners.

Initiative reviews provide an opportunity for the initiative and objective owner to communicate any major hurdles to the initiative progress.  If following an agile methodology, these meetings may seemlessly fit in with a major iteration meeting.  

If milestones and task deadlines have also been built out for an initiative, as we recommend, the initiative review is a place for lower level deadlines to be discussed.  Since the milestone/task owners may differ from the initiative owner in larger organizations, the strategic initiative review provides a formal forum for issues to be discussed.

Strategic initiative reviews tend to be very project management focused

In any Strategy Review Meeting facilitation, rarely do I suggest getting down into the operational level.  Strategic initiative reviews tend to be the exception to that rule.  The meeting should focus on adjusting deadlines, accountability, and resources.  For the meeting itself, it can be very effective to project your strategy or project management tool to visualize the initiative's relation to the strategic plan.

Initiative example in ESM

While strategic initiative reviews should only take about 60 minutes, they help drive alignment to the entire strategy, identify risks, and resolve any project management major issues.

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