Target Action Planning - the Missing Link Between Strategy and Tactics
By: Edmond Hennessy
Edmond Hennessy is a seasoned, well-recognized veteran in the COTS Embedded Market. He has authored many works including the “Mission-Ready COTS” Industry Guidebook, “COTS Supportability & the Life-Cycle Proposition” and “Beyond COTS: Repackaging, Reformatting & Tech Transfers.” He has participated in key industry panels, has been a keynote speaker in E-casts dedicated to signal-processing applications and has been tapped as an industry executive to comment on disruptive and emerging technologies that impact the Defense & Military, Homeland Security and Healthcare/Medical Target segments. Mr. Hennessy heads up the Performance Marketing Group (PMG), a private market programs & consulting firm. His new book Market Warfare: Leadership & Domination over Competitors will be released in early 2008. For more information visit http://www.pmgresults.com/ or call (603) 552-2096.
Most businesses pride themselves on their brilliant strategies. However, ask how they translate strategy into tactics to generate results and they will predictably go silent.
What they lack is simply a goal- and priority-setting system to bridge strategy and tactics that creates action and accountability.
Target Action Planning (TAP) is a technique you can use when your company is embarking on a new initiative or effort with which it has little or no experience. This might be the development of a new market, the building or modifying of a distribution channel or the launch of a new product or concept, each of which spawns a new process in the organization. It may even support a newly created role among your staff.
Use TAP when your company needs to evaluate, assess and fine-tune its workload and priorities. TAP involves assessing the skills, resource allocation and priorities of your business and how closely they align with your strategic directives.
Every company needs an effective system that aligns its people and departments with the common goals that correspond to the Critical Success Factors (CSFs)—the things that, if not done, will result in the company’s failing. TAP aligns company resources and provides the means to negotiate (cross-departmentally) for resource priority and allocation. This is a key area that plagues many organizations.
TAP brings balance, coordination and integration to the organization and minimizes personal agendas.
The seven steps of Target Action Planning
Step One: Define current tasks, priorities and projects for yourself and the employees who will use the TAP system
This list includes anything that is currently consuming company time, energy and effort. This is simply a definition phase. No assessments or judgments are made. Generate a document, using the following example, for each of these tasks.
The Target Action Planning (TAP) Document
Task or project (defined in 5 words): ____________________________
Status of task: ______________________________________________
(New assignment, work-in-progress, close to completion)
Target date for completion of task: _____________________________
Name of the employee managing this task: _______________________
Resources need to complete the task,
particularly cross-departmental or external company sources:
Step Two: Prioritize each of the projects or tasks identified in Step One
Rank each task as high, medium or low priority from the perspective of the individual or group that put the TAP document together for that task. Discuss CSFs with your staff during this ranking process. Most of us dedicate 70% or more of our time to “operational tasks,” things that are not necessarily critical to the business. The CSFs, however, usually correspond to the strategic initiatives that drive the business. Ask your staff what they believe to be the CSFs that support the business as a whole, their group’s function, and their individual function.
Step Three: Conduct a brainstorming exercise with your staff
You need to clear the slate so you can look at the picture without the constraints and priorities that revolve around your company’s current workload and tasks. Completely ignore, for now, what has been captured and ranked in Steps One and Two. (That information will resurface in a later stage in the process.) This step allows you and your people to think freely, both inside and outside the box. Bring up topics such as the company’s positioning and messaging, changing trends in the market, buying influences, the competitive landscape, assessment of the opportunity base, customer satisfaction (and retention), the effectiveness of your sales and distribution channel, acquisitions, and strategic alliances with third-party resources.
Sort out and document all output from this brainstorming session, grouping the entries in common categories—for example, market issues or sales-related considerations. The resulting list of priorities is your Hit List.
Step Four: Define the key areas of focus derived from the brainstorming session
Rank the items on the Hit List from most significant to least significant in terms of value and impact. Then, classify each entry as high, medium or low priority. At this stage, you need to get tough. Scrutinize your Hit List. Trade-offs may be required, but your final list should represent a valid picture of your company’s top priorities.
Each item on the final list will be compared to the Hit List captured in Step Three. They will either be a match, a pure mismatch, or in the “gray zone” (which means uncertainty) compared to the scope of key items discussed in the brainstorming session.
At this point, decide the fate of each item on the Hit List: commit and do it, reprioritize it and do it later (decide on a target start date) or eliminate it because it is not critical.
When you are done, the TAP process will have generated the undisputable priorities for your company.
Step Five: Compare the results of Step Four (what your company SHOULD BE doing) with the input from Steps One and Two (what your company IS doing)
This could be an eye-opener. You may discover that your people have been focusing on the wrong things—things that do not fuel CSFs.
Have your managers determine what (and to whom) they will delegate from their original task list to make room for more important priorities.
Step Six: Develop a new TAP document for each high- and medium-priority item on your Selected Final Hit List
The TAP document is a working action plan for a specific task or priority. A successful TAP document defines the task or project, the person responsible for it, and the team or cross-departmental resources that will be needed. It sets a realistic target date for completion, outlines specific details about what the task will produce or generate, and lists the specific steps necessary to complete the task. It also gives a clear definition of the expected results.
Step Seven: Implement the program
Conduct an orientation and kick-off session for your new priorities. Start slowly, tackling less challenging priorities and building from there. You want your people to taste success early and often.
Target Action Planning is simple, elegant and effective. How well does your company currently bridge strategy and tactics?
Are you ready to take a serious look at TAP and apply it to your business?
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