Operational Planning – Key things you need to know

What Is Operational Planning?

Operational planning is the process of turning a strategic plan into a detailed roadmap that outlines exactly what action your team will take on a weekly, or sometimes even daily, basis. It is the process of translating the organization’s goals and objectives into specific actions that can be taken by individuals or teams. Operational planning is typically conducted at the departmental or functional level, and it focuses on the short-term (one year or less).

Operational planning is also an integral aspect of organizational success. In a world where businesses are constantly evolving and adapting to new challenges, having a well-thought-out operational plan is crucial for achieving goals efficiently. This article delves into the intricacies of operational planning, its components, benefits, and its distinction from strategic planning.

Operational planning is important because it helps organizations to:

  • Stay on track with their strategic goals
  • Make better decisions about resource allocation
  • Improve efficiency and productivity
  • Identify and mitigate risks
  • Respond to changes in the market or the environment

How to Make an Operational Plan?

Creating an effective operational plan requires a structured approach. The following steps can be used to create an operational plan:

  • Start with your strategic plan. What are your organization’s long-term goals? What are the key objectives that you need to achieve in order to reach those goals?
  • Break down your goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. What are the specific actions that need to be taken in order to achieve each objective?
  • Assign tasks to individuals or teams and assign Responsibilities. Who is responsible for each task? When is each task due? Clearly assign responsibilities to individuals or teams for each activity. This ensures accountability and clarity in execution. 
  • Set deadlines and milestones. How will you track progress and ensure that tasks are completed on time? Establish realistic timelines for each activity. This will help in tracking progress and ensuring that the plan stays on course.
  • Identify and allocate resources. What resources will be needed to complete each task? Determine the resources needed for each activity, including human resources, finances, technology, and equipment. 
  • Monitor and adjust your plan as needed. The environment is constantly changing, so it’s important to regularly review your operational plan and make adjustments as needed. Identify potential obstacles that may arise during the execution of the plan. Having contingency plans in place can help handle these challenges. Regularly monitor the progress of the plan and be open to making adjustments as needed. Flexibility is key to adapting to changing circumstances.
  • Set Clear Objectives: Begin by clearly defining the objectives you aim to achieve. These objectives should align with the overall strategic goals of the organization.
  • Identify Key Activities: Break down the objectives into specific tasks and activities. These activities should be actionable and measurable.

What Should Be Included in an Operational Plan?

An effective operational plan should contain the following elements or components:

  • A summary of the organization’s strategic goals also known as Executive Summary. This executive summary provides a concise overview of the plan’s objectives, strategies, and expected outcomes.
  • A list of specific objectives that need to be achieved in order to reach those goals and a mission statement. Clear articulation of the organization’s mission and the specific objectives the operational plan aims to achieve.
  • A list of tasks (actionable steps) that need to be completed in order to achieve each objective. Detailed breakdown of the tasks and activities required to reach the objectives.
  • A timeline for completing each task. Clear and realistic timelines for the completion of each task.
  • A list of resources or resource allocation. Specification of the resources, including financial, human, and technological, needed for each activity.that will be needed to complete each task
  • A list of risks that could impact the plan. You should identify a list of potential risks and strategies to handle them.
  • A plan for mitigating those risks
  • Performance Indicators: Metrics to measure the progress and success of each activity.
  • Communication Plan: Outline of how information will be shared among team members, stakeholders, and leadership.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation: Methods for tracking progress, evaluating results, and making necessary adjustments.

What Are the Benefits of Operational Planning?

There are many benefits to operational planning, including:

  • Improved efficiency and productivity: Operational planning can help organizations to identify and eliminate waste, streamline processes, and improve coordination between departments. With a well-structured plan in place, teams can work more efficiently, as everyone knows their roles and responsibilities.
  • Better decision-making: Operational planning provides a framework for making better decisions about resource allocation, pricing, and marketing.
  • Increased visibility and accountability: Operational planning helps to ensure that everyone in the organization is aware of the goals and objectives, and that they are held accountable for their performance.
  • Reduced risk: Operational planning can help to identify and mitigate risks, such as changes in the market or the environment.
  • Increased agility: Operational planning can help organizations to respond quickly to changes in the market or the environment.
  • Enhanced Communication: Clear communication of objectives and tasks fosters better collaboration among team members.
  • Resource Optimization: Allocating resources judiciously reduces wastage and ensures optimal utilization.
  • Goal Alignment: Operational plans ensure that daily activities align with the larger strategic goals of the organization.
  • Adaptability: Having contingency plans allows organizations to respond effectively to unforeseen challenges.
  • Performance Tracking: Defined metrics enable organizations to track progress and identify areas for improvement.

Operational planning vs. strategic planning

Operational planning and strategic planning are two different types of planning that are often confused with each other. However, there are some key differences between the two:

  • Timeframe: Operational planning typically focuses on the short-term (one year or less), while strategic planning focuses on the long-term (three to five years or more).
  • Level of detail: Operational planning is more detailed than strategic planning. Operational plans typically include specific tasks, deadlines, and resources, while strategic plans are more general in nature.
  • Focus: Operational planning focuses on how the organization will achieve its goals, while strategic planning focuses on what the organization’s goals should be.

In other words, while operational planning and strategic planning are interconnected, they serve different purposes:

Operational Planning: Focuses on the execution of specific tasks and activities necessary to achieve short-term goals. It deals with the “how” of achieving objectives and is more detailed and immediate.

Strategic Planning: Involves setting long-term goals and defining the broad strategies to achieve them. It focuses on the “what” and “why” of organizational objectives and provides a roadmap for the future.

Who should create an operational plan?

The person who should create an operational plan will vary depending on the size and complexity of the organization. In small organizations, the owner or CEO may be responsible for creating the operational plan. In larger organizations, the operational plan may be created by a team of managers or executives.

Operational plans are typically developed by department heads, team leaders, or project managers in collaboration with their teams. These individuals are closest to the day-to-day activities and possess the necessary insights to create actionable plans. However, it’s crucial that these plans are aligned with the overarching strategic goals set by top leadership.

No matter who creates the operational plan, it is important to get input from all levels of the organization. This will help to ensure that the plan is realistic and achievable.


Operational planning is an essential tool for any organization that wants to achieve its goals. By taking the time to create a detailed operational plan, organizations can increase efficiency, improve decision-making, and reduce risk.

In conclusion, operational planning is the backbone of successful execution in any organization. It transforms high-level strategic aspirations into actionable steps, ensuring that objectives are achieved efficiently and effectively. By following a structured approach, including key components in the plan, and understanding its benefits and distinctions from strategic planning, organizations can chart a course towards achievement and growth.

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