Many leaders annually ask those they have assigned to lead various parts of their business to prepare an annual plan. While what they prepare might be called a Strategic Plan, a Business Plan, or an Operating Plan, the truth is that there is often confusion about what the organization is trying to do and how they will go about doing it.

Consequently, it pays to separate Strategy from Operations. That is, each organizational unit should be asked to prepare both a Strategy to lay out what they plan to do and an Operating Plan that details what will be done to implment the strategy.

Strategy is How You Plan to Win the Game You are Playing

The Strategic Plan and the Operating Plan are two distinct outcomes of a well-conceived annual planning process.

Ask each leader to work with their team to prepare a Strategic Plan for their assigned area of responsibility. Schedule a time to review their Strategic Plan for you to ask questions to gain clarity and to push up thinking, give guidance, and add to the evolving overall Strategy for the entire organization.

After reviewing the Strategic Plan, ask each leader to then work with their team to prepare an Operating Plan. Then, schedule a time for another round of your review, questions, and guidance.

The Strategic Plan is short, high-level, and prepared from the top-down. It covers:

  • What the organization is trying to accomplish including WHAT the company provides, to WHOm, and WHY buyers choose to do business with the company.
  • How things are now, why they need to change, and how things will be once intended change has occurred.
  • Strategic initiatives to address what has to be done differently to move from the Current to target Next State.

Except for the current year initiatives, the Strategic Plan does not change much from year to year.

It is best to work on strategy and then reconvene to discuss operations after a separate effort to sort out how to implement the strategy.

Formulate and review strategic plans separate and apart from operations. Once conversation moves from strategy to operations it is difficult to then lift up and get back to discussing strategy.

The Operating Plan is more detailed and is prepared from the bottom up.

It covers:

  • How the organization does what it does.
  • How the organization creates demand for what it does.
  • How the organization will grow.
  • How well the organization is doing relative to its past, plan, and peers.
  • How current year strategic initiatives are to be implemented.
The sum total of what each leader plans to do must at least equal, and ideally exceed, the overall plan.

Each leader drafts their Page-of-the-Plan to show how they will do what the organization is counting on from them to achieve the planned financial results, accomplish the strategic initiatives, and lay the foundation for future years.


Annual Process
Annual Planning Offsite POAD
How to Run a Great Annual Planning Offsite


Stellar Solutions – The New CEO built trust and commitment from her team supported by the IntelliVen Initiative Launch Process to frame what needed to be done, by whom, and when, thereby turning an Initiative on a list to Action. The plan worked and a year later the team is using the same process to launch their next most important initiative.

Hawaiian Airlines – New CEO and top team of six were coming out of bankruptcy with an uncertain future. The company went on to become the U.S. industry’s leading airline for operational performance, has delivered the highest levels of customer service and has been one of the most financially successful U.S. carriers.

Gemcom – PE-owned software firm serving precious metal mining companies; CEO and top team of 19 from around the world, adding a new services offering; grew revenue by ~100% and EBITDA >40%. Achieved 5-year plan in two years and sold for a high premium.

Compusearch – PE-owned software firm CEO and top team of 15; adding new offerings and entering new markets; grew from $15M to $135M with EBITDA > 40%

Softonic – Largest international software purchasing platform; based in Spain; new CEO and top team of 6; led the transition to new sales model; found IntelliVen by searching the web for best strategy offsite program

Volpe Transportation Center – Helped leaders of a team of scientists lay the groundwork for working collaboratively across divisions to pursue initiatives for new offerings beyond the scope of individual units

American Management System – Used by EVP and top team of 15 to grow Finance Industry credit management system unit from $20M to $200M operating around the world

Touchstone – Used with government agency leaders to drive strategic initiatives in DHS, NOAA, Girl Scouts, Washington Hospital, among many others

THRUUE – Used with health care and senior living providers

Acquisition Solutions – Used with government agencies to advance acquisition and procurement processes to save billions of dollars; e.g., at FEMA/FIMA

RescueSF – Used with 50 leaders of stakeholder groups (healthcare, city officials, real estate development, religious groups, etc.) to land on initiatives they could do collectively that were not possible to do on their own. Massive impact on helping the unhoused has followed.

Intelligent Strategies. Successful Ventures.