Are You Too Clever to Build a Strategic Plan?

strategic plan

There is an impulse in people to make things more complicated than they need to be.  When building a strategic plan, our first thought is that it needs to be many pages in length.

Most often, these complicated plans get put in a binder and end up on a shelf and add no value to the business.  They’re way too clever to be of any use.

Herb Kelleher, past CEO of Southwest Airlines famously said, “We have a strategic plan – it’s called doing things.”

In this article, I’m going to show you a really simple operational plan to get you started on… doing things.

Just gather your key people in a room and ask them to fill in a simple chart for the company (or their department) with these key headings.

Ask them to fill in their ideas, then get the group to rate the ideas.  Come up with 3-5 in each category.  This is called an ‘FMOP’ chart. That’s pronounced, “Effmop.”

Once you’ve filled in the chart and prioritized the items, that’s your plan!  Done!  Simple!  Here are the categories:

Financial objectives

In this category, you want to be clear on the financial performance you need to achieve.    These are questions of:

  • How do we increase our wealth?
  • How do we grow the business?
  • How do we increase profit?
  • How do we maximize cash on hand?
  • How do we improve financial returns?

You might want to begin by simply asking what kind of topline sales you will achieve, and what margins will be maintained while selling.  Remember the old saying:  Topline is vanity, margin is sanity, and cash is reality!

Make sure everyone’s clear on what financial performance is expected.

The Professional Leadership Institute provides training on How to Create a Business Plan and offers a free preview.

Marketplace objectives

Now you move on to your customers and clients.  Here you’re asking the simple question: what markets, customers and clients will allow us to meet the financial requirements we just laid out in the first category?  These are questions of:

  • Who is our perfect customer?
  • How do we grow sales with them and others?
  • What are our brand promises (that we can deliver consistently, and that our perfect customers value)?
  • What model are we taking to the marketplace? Can it be improved or changed?

Operational objectives

Next you pose this question:  What internal processes and systems do we need in order to serve the marketplace we just talked about in the last category?  What needs an upgrade?  Does anything need to change so we can really deliver?  Here we’re looking at:

  • Quality control
  • Customer service
  • Innovation and research and development
  • Software and computer systems
  • Cost structure

The overall question for this category is simply, “What needs to change internally so we can deliver on what we’re promising to our customers?

People objectives

In this category we’re focusing on our people and the work environment we’re building.

We can have all the right goals and systems, but if we don’t have right people in right seats doing the right things, nothing will work!

Here we ask, “What people development and culture are needed so that we can make all of these plans happen?”

We’re thinking here of questions like:

  • How do we develop our current people?
  • How do we find more great people?
  • How do we challenge and/or off board problem people?
  • How do we train and coach our people?
  • How do we give better, more consistent, more meaningful feedback?
  • How do we build a culture of teamwork and engagement?

If you get the people part right, everything else will be much easier to figure out!

Once you have the answers to these questions and you’ve prioritized the answers, you have a good working plan to get things going.

Of course you can always refine it and make it better, but this simple FMOP chart will get you on your way, fast!

 In summary:

If you want a very simple operational plan to get your team headed in the same direction, try the FMOP chart.  This chart simply focuses the team on answering these objectives.  Get everyone brainstorming and writing their ideas in each category, and then prioritize the results.  Once you’re finished, you have a great working plan, that isn’t too clever to be implemented!

The four simple categories are:

  1. Financial objectives
  2. Marketplace objectives
  3. Operational objectives
  4. People objectives

Additional resources

Thanks for reading this article on ‘Are you too clever to build a strategic plan?’  Below are additional resources from Professional Leadership Institute, the global provider of online human resources and leadership tools:


Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

Find more about “The Power of People Skills” here:


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