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The Importance of Strategic Decision-Making, Part III

By Larry Sloan
(Sources: Tecker International LLC, Ragan’s PR Daily)

In this, my last blog in this series on the importance of strategic decision-making, let’s delve into the next step… an Action Plan.

But first, let’s define for purposes of this exercise what the terms “goal,” “objective,” “strategy,” and “tactic” mean because there are varying interpretations.

Goal: Quite simply, a goal is what you want to accomplish. Example: "Make ABC company the preferred supplier of XYZ products in the U.S.” This goal is aspirational in nature, and does not contain any specifics as to how to achieve it. That comes later. It shouldn’t really change. It's the proverbial carrot dangling in front of your team. 

Objective: Here is where we get into the specifics. Make the objectives “SMART”—strategic, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Example: "Sell 15 percent more XYZ products in the U.S. next year compared to this year.” Assuming this is realistic and attainable, the objective is very simple and certainly quantifiable. An objective should start with a verb ( “increase,” “sell,” “enhance,” “promote”). Start an objective with one of these words, and then use numbers to make it measurable. Note: Sometimes the terms “goal” and “objective” are used interchangeably. In this case, the “goal” starts to look more like an “objective” and the SMART principle should be applied.

Strategy: A strategy is why you are doing something. Example: "Explore ways to enhance product awareness and placement through our network of distributors and agents.” There will likely be multiple strategies supporting each objective. In order to execute the strategy, we need to define the tactics. 

Tactic: The individual task that is proposed to accomplish the overarching goal, satisfy the objective, and fulfill the strategy. Here, too, there will likely be multiple tactics supporting each strategy. Examples: Visit X # of distributors and Y # of agents each quarter”.

Pulling all this information together, here’s an example of what an action plan might look like. To help organize the details, you might want to create a separate plan for each objective. The representation below is then based on one of perhaps multiple objectives:


The tactics are then detailed in the following chart. Here we spell out the events (activities), primary responsible parties (those actually doing the work are labelled “accountable”; those overseeing/managing are “consulted”), start and end dates, financial line items, and names of employees with check marks (or hour allocations) under each monthly column.


As you can see, a lot of thinking goes into developing these action plans; however, the chances of success are greatly enhanced by laying out the details and communicating them to all affected individuals. 

At AIHA, my team and I abide by this type of approach and are headlong into carrying out our action plans for FY 2017. At the start of 2018, I will update you on how strategic decision-making has positively affected the advancement of AIHA’s mission.

Larry Sloan is AIHA’s CEO.​


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