If you’re a team leader or part of a huge business team, you’ve likely at least heard of the term operational planning. Having heard of a term, and understanding a term, are two vastly different things, however. To ensure you’re handling business effectively, here is a handy guide for professional operational planning practices:
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So, What is Operational Planning?
Understanding what the term “operational planning” actually means is crucial to becoming an effective, successful team leader. Without quality operational planning, your team will not have the guidance they need to excel, after all. Simply put, operational planning is the creation of an activity outline that helps to define and focus a team’s work efforts for a specific length of time. If you’ve ever worked as part of a large-scale business team or led one of these teams on your own, you’ve almost certainly used an operational plan to ensure the work is being done correctly (and on time).
Understanding the Differences: Operational Planning vs. Strategic Planning
Many people confuse operational planning with strategic planning. However, the two are very different strategies. When looking at operational plans, you’re trying to focus on a single department’s goals, and want to provide a long-term solution for specific obstacles. When looking at a strategic plan, on the other hand, you’re usually looking at a plan that’s meant to set up a future goal. Knowing the difference between these two types of plans will help you craft more functional, consistently effective operational plans. Every quality leader needs to have the differences, and varying benefits, of these two planning styles, firmly implanted into their work mindset.
The Two Key Types of Operational Plans
Operational planning is not a one-size-fits-all operation. That being said, there are two distinct types of operational planning used in the workforce:
1. Single-Use Plan
Single-use plans are often the most difficult, but crucial, type of operational plan leaders need to draft. These plans are used to handle a specific, often one-off project. When a project is going to be unique to your business’s typical operations, or when it will feel especially innovative for your team members, you need to employ a single-use plan to get the ball rolling. This will keep everyone on track, and make your directions as clear, precise, and followable as humanly possible.
2. Standing Plan
Standing plans are the most common type of operational plan, and tend to help guide the larger workflow and goals of a workforce. If you’re leading a team of employees, you need a standing plan that can point them toward potential points of action with ease any time they feel lost about what they should be doing. Keep this plan flexible, but clear, and it will prove much more effective. The more time you spend using a standing plan, the more time you’ll have to refine it (so that you can unlock your team’s full potential in the long run).
Two Essential Benefits Provided by Operational Planning:
Operational planning provides nearly endless benefits to teams that implement them successfully. However, there are two essential benefits to operational planning that every team leader should know about:
1. Hyper-Charging Team Productivity
The key reason most leaders use operational planning is to boost their team members’ productivity (and that includes the leader’s productivity as well). When people have proper guidelines to follow, and clear, direct tasks to accomplish, they will be much more likely to take productivity to the next level. If you fail to make these terms clear as a leader, your team will almost certainly fall behind schedule. To compete in today’s economy, your business operations have to remain as productive as humanly possible.
2. Boosted Collaboration Capabilities
To keep productivity high, and to unlock new ways of boosting efficiency, collaboration is almost always necessary. Thankfully, operational planning is a fantastic way to both encourage and mandate increased collaboration between your workers. While it’s key to keep everyone tied down to some specific, individual roles and responsibilities, finding ways to intertwine tasks is important as well. This is the key to creating a highly collaborative, creative, and innovative work environment, after all, so be sure you always preach the gospel of productive collaboration to your employees.
Doing Operational Planning, the Right Way
With the information provided in this guide, you can ensure that you have the skill set needed to do effective operational planning. Without a solid plan laid down, it can be downright impossible to efficiently lead a team. Notably, we have more tools than ever before to help us craft, post, and keep on track with operational planning. Thanks to this, businesses are reaching new heights of success.