How to Build a One Page Strategic Plan For Your Organization

Why build a one-page strategic plan?

Many mid-market businesses have no strategic plan at all. Instead, they treat the business like a job. They show up, do the work of the day, and assume tomorrow will be much the same.

Businesses that do have a strategic plan usually have it on many pages. Usually it’s in a binder sitting on a shelf. Rarely does the strategic plan have an influence on the average person in the business. More often it’s done because everyone knows you should have a strategic plan!

Putting the plan on one page is all about:

  1. Having team discussions on where the organization should be going
  2. Communicating this information with the entire team, with potential employees you’re trying to recruit, and with selected vendors and other stakeholders.

The one-page strategic plan is primarily a discussion, alignment and communication tool.

How is the one-page plan structured?

The plan is divided into three sections: The basics, long term, and right now. Each category is represented by a column on a single 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.

The plan is designed to move from cultural basics, to long term goals and plans, to items that need to be accomplished this year, this quarter, and today.

Think of it like a plane in flight. The basics represent the plane at 30,000 ft, the long-term category is the plane at 10,000 feet, and the right now category represents the plane coming in for a landing.

Column 1 The basics

The basics column is about your culture. Once you’ve defined each category in ‘the basics,’ they aren’t going to change much. You’ll have to have a lot of unfiltered dialogue with your team in order to complete these categories, but once they’re done, they’re done. Here they are:

1. Why?

This category asks the basic question: Why does your organization exist? What would be lost if it were gone? Why do people show up beyond just getting a paycheque?
The reason the purpose is important is because most people have no purpose in life. If you can provide them with one, they’ll find more meaning in their work, they’ll enjoy it more, and they’ll be much more productive too.

2. Core values

The core values are the few rules of behavior that really matter to the organization. They’re behaviors that you’re willing to defend. Leaders embody these values, and don’t ‘walk past’ violations of them. Core values are the most important HR tool in your toolbox. They are used in hiring, onboarding and training, promotion, correction, and firing when necessary.

3. BHAG

‘BHAG’ is a term coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in the book “Good to Great.” It stands for ‘big hairy audacious goal.’
The BHAG is a goal that is 10 or more years out. It is used to act as a ‘north star’ for the organization. Since it’s a longer-term goal, it helps keep the team focussed on what’s important in years to come, and not only focus on tactical urgent issues of the day.

It is used to rally the team, to promote a competitive fighting spirit, and to cast vision for the future.

4. Brand promises

The brand promises capture what we are committed to delivering to our customers on a regular, consistent basis. Customers appreciate consistency. They want to know what they can count on.

When you think of McDonalds restaurant, what promises come to mind? What do they deliver every single time you interact with their business?
Their brand promises are:

  • Consistent: They want a hamburger to taste the same, whether you buy it in Los Angeles, New York, or Abu Dhabi. This is not a simple promise to keep, and they’ve gone to great lengths to accomplish it.
  • Fast: McDonalds has geared its operations to be the fastest hamburger restaurant anywhere. This is why they’ve implemented kiosk ordering, drive-throughs (and now double drive-throughs) and other time-saving innovations.
  • Fun: Play places, joint ventures with movie companies, happy meals, games and toys are just a few of the initiatives McDonalds has implemented to make their restaurants fun.

What can your customers count on your organization to deliver? Every. Single. Time.

These are your brand promises

5. Playing field

Your playing field defines the scope of your operations. This includes the geographic and demographics of your potential customers. It also covers the scope of products you want to offer.

This category answers these questions:

  • Where do you want to do business?
  • With whom do you want to do business?
  • What do you want to sell to them?

The playing field category helps you decide on where you should be focusing, and maybe more important, where you should not be spending your limited resources.

The long-term column

This column contains three categories. They are:

  1. Numerical targets: The numerical targets section simply represents numbers that you want to watch. It’s pretty hard to say where you’ll be at in five years, but just take a wig (wild guess). You’ll get better at estimating as you go along. You may want to measure top line revenues, margins, EBITDA, number of A players on the team, same store sales, raw materials costs, or whatever metrics are meaningful to your organization.
  2. Opportunities threats and trends: This category challenges you to think through the key opportunities your organization should be taking advantage of, the threats that could seriously harm you, and which trends are developing that you shouldn’t ignore. Opportunities and threats should be looked at 12 months out, and trends should be considered over several years.
  3. Long term (5 year) goals: Choose no more than five long term (five-year) goals.

Use the ‘time machine’ exercise. Put yourself in a time machine, and imagine you are five years in the future sitting in the same room you’re in now. Then ask, “What major initiatives were accomplished that made the previous five years a success?” Write down these key five-year initiatives in this category.

The right now column

This column focuses us on what we should be doing this year and this quarter. Here are the categories in the right now column:

  1. One-year numerical targets: These are the same numerical goals as you chose in the long-term numerical targets category one column over. It’s just broken down to a one-year number.
  2. One-year goals: What are your organization’s top 5 one-year goals, and which one is most important? What is your top goal for the next 12 months? Get clear on it. Communicate it to others
  3. Personal accountabilities: What is each individual committing to accomplishing in the next 90 days in order to achieve these one-year goals? Allow each person to choose no more than 3.

And with that, your one-page strategic plan is complete!

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