Senior Writer: Writa Bhattacharjee
One of the key responsibilities of senior management of a company is to set objectives or the vision for the business. Without such macro-level strategic inputs, an organization has no idea what direction to move in or how.
A handy tool for meeting this fundamental responsibility is a strategic initiative. A strategic initiative is a systematic way to guide your company’s long-term visions to fruition. However, before exploring how you can develop and implement strategic business initiatives, let us understand what these are and why they matter.
What is a Strategic Initiative?
A strategic initiative is an organization’s road map to its strategic goals. It is a comprehensive, action-oriented, and measurable set of plans to achieve the organization’s strategic vision and long-term objectives.
A strategic initiative makes strategic objectives tangible. It answers “How to achieve” and not just “What to achieve.” For example, your goal might be to increase your visibility or raise brand awareness. In that case, your strategic initiative could include social media marketing or rebranding.
A strategic initiative need not even be a single project. It could be multiple projects working in tandem to achieve the same initiative. Even multiple strategic goals could work together.
Why are Strategic Initiatives Important for Your Business?
Strategic initiatives are important to fulfill an organization’s strategic vision. They can benefit your business in many ways that include:
- A strategic initiative provides a means to meet specific objectives.
- They help bridge the gap between a project’s current and target performances.
- They provide frameworks to judge if any specific project is valuable.
- They enable a company to move forward systematically.
- Strategic initiatives are one of the effective means for creating organizational change.
You May Also Read : Checkout the Best TimelinesAI Alternatives
What are the Different Types of Strategic Initiatives?
There are different types of strategic initiatives. You can classify them based on the different levels of the organization at which they work. Or you can classify them based on their purpose.
Based on the level of strategy involved, you can categorize strategic initiatives into the following types:
- Corporate Level – Corporate-level strategies operate at the highest level of the company. They deal with questions of identity and direction of your firm—for example, expansion into a business upstream of the supply chain.
- Business Level – Business-level strategies work for meeting the operational strategy goals of your business. They have to do with how to achieve success in the market. For instance, how to gain a competitive advantage or reduce labor costs.
- Functional Level – Functional-level strategic initiatives affect departments or teams within the organization. They aim to contribute to the business-level or corporate-level strategic initiatives. An example is the training of the sales force in new selling tactics for optimized sales operations.
You can also categorize strategic business initiatives based on their purpose into the following types:
- Corrective – Corrective initiatives are meant to fix problems in the organization. They are generally short-term initiatives. They fill in gaps to allow you to pursue long-term initiatives—for example, an initiative to reduce cart abandonment in an online retail organization.
- Constructive or expansive – Constructive or expansive initiatives relate to new methods, directions, and approaches to expand the business. It can be at the Corporate or Business levels. For instance, a phone manufacturing company might expand into VoIP and SaaS management or could consider developing a customized phone network for a local phone service system that is tailored to business needs.
- Innovative or disruptive – Innovative or disruptive initiatives introduce new ideas or game-changing solutions into the market. Such initiatives influence other businesses. Artificial intelligence-based software is a good example.
- Defensive – Defensive initiatives are meant to safeguard your position in the market or industry. They can be at any level or involve new methods or ideas. But unlike offensive initiatives, their goal is to defend against competitors. For instance, a News Channel Network might start its own streaming service.
What are the Key Strategic Initiatives Examples?
Every industry has its specific types of strategic initiatives. Let us look at some initiatives relevant to the Healthcare, Manufacturing, and Retail industries.
1. Healthcare Strategic Initiatives
Here are some examples of strategic initiatives related to the Healthcare sector:
- Develop a prenatal and postnatal care model and implement it in 60% of hospitals in the chain by 30th April 2023.
- Provide 100 hospitals with fully equipped ambulances to increase the chances of survival of accident victims by the end of the Financial Year 2022-23.
- Increase organ donor registration in India by 30% by June 2023.
2. Manufacturing Strategic Initiatives
Some strategic initiatives examples from the manufacturing industry are:
- Reduce factory-wide wastage from 28% to 13% by 30th September 2023.
- Phase out machines older than twenty-five years in the organization’s manufacturing plants globally by 31st December 2023.
- Meet the latest emission norms by the end of FY 2023.
3. Retail Strategic Initiatives
The retail industry’s strategic initiatives examples include:
- Reduce checkout times by 30% at 70% of stores by October 2024.
- Open 50 new shop-in-shop kiosks in prime locations across Australia by 31st March 2024.
- Develop and incorporate a streamlined customer feedback and support system in 40% of stores by 15th May 2023.
Why Do Strategic Initiatives Fail?
According to research, up to 70% of strategic initiatives fail. There are three key reasons behind this failure. They are
1. Lack of Alignment
Your strategic initiatives represent your organization’s priorities. If these priorities do not align with your company’s vision, mission statement, values, needs, and interests, the initiatives are pointless. Even if these misaligned initiatives succeed, they won’t benefit your company.
Misaligned strategic initiatives can harm your organization. They will waste resources, fracture your organization, and hinder moving forward.
Therefore, even though the alignment is not directly related to the success of strategic initiatives, it is critical. To ensure the success of your efforts in undertaking a strategic initiative, ensure that your priorities are right. Then you can base your initiatives on them.
2. Lack of Focus
Many organizations make the mistake of pursuing too many strategic initiatives simultaneously. The split focus results in failure to complete some or even all initiatives. Having too many initiatives is even worse than having too few.
Resources, including time and people, get split when a company has too many simultaneous strategic projects. Unfortunately, resources are limited. So, splitting them means you don’t have enough resources for any initiative. The results and wastage can be disastrous.
You can cherry-pick the initiatives you want to implement to avoid this situation. If you ensure they are impactful, even a few initiatives can give you a strategic advantage. Ideally, an organization should have at most five such initiatives ongoing simultaneously.
3. Lack of Discipline
Lack of discipline in execution is another primary reason for the failure of strategic initiatives. Typically, this issue happens when a new development or opportunity distracts you from the ongoing initiative. The new opportunity might seem lucrative, but pursuing it at the cost of the current initiatives can be a bad idea.
When a new opportunity arises, a business should question its value instead of abandoning the existing plans. If the prospect does not provide significant benefit (which the planned strategic initiative offers), it is not worth pursuing.
While implementing an initiative, if any distracting new opportunity arises, you should question: Is it crucial to the current strategy? If the answer is no, then you can ignore it and focus on taking the ongoing initiative to its successful end.
You May Also Read : Checkout the Best Callbell Alternatives
How to Develop a Successful Strategic Initiative?
As the previous section shows, many strategic initiatives do not succeed. However, there are specific steps you can take to avoid that. The last section talks about what to do during the implementation stage. Let us also look at how to build and create initiatives from the development stage. There are six steps to developing a successful strategic initiative:
1. Determine Your Goals
There are two parts to determining your goals. First, you can review your performance gaps and set goals to bridge the biggest ones that act as obstacles. Second, you can check your strategic objective and set goals for projects that will move you closer to it. Ideally, you should set between 1 and 5 strategic goals.
2. Set Milestones
Once your goals are set, you can set your milestones. Milestones are smaller targets into which you can break your goals. They are the steps that will help you to define and monitor your movement toward your strategic goal. Completing each milestone takes you closer to the overall goal.
3. Choose a Strategy
You can select a business strategy appropriate for you based on your ultimate goal. There are many types of strategies, like Acquisition, Growth, Diversification, etc. Which path you will choose from these strategies depends on your destination. The strategy you pick will define the structure for the activities you will undertake to meet the goal.
4. Create Your Plan
You can create an action plan based on your milestones and strategy. The plan is a set of smaller tasks that can build up to the completing of a milestone. Your plan would generally mention specific tasks, the person responsible, the resources necessary, the deadline, etc. It is a written roadmap that you can share with team members, executives, and other stakeholders.
5. Secure Buy-in
To carry out your project plan, you need the support of senior management or key stakeholders. Their buy-in is in exchange for the benefits to the organization that you are targeting. You can convince them to accept your initiative by focusing on the financial, emotional, or other benefits. Or you can appeal to their values. Different stakeholders might have various reasons for buying in.
6. Monitor Progress
After your project is underway, it is critical to monitor its progress to ensure it is on track. Managers and supervisors involved in the project can report regularly. They can also use various tools available for project management. This is an area where technology can be helpful. Dynamic monitoring will keep the project on track and flexible enough to tackle unexpected roadblocks.
A strategic initiative is crucial for the success of your business and to give you a competitive advantage. However, as statistics show, only some initiatives succeed. Our comprehensive guide to building and creating initiatives will help you to overcome roadblocks and successfully develop strategic initiatives.
Strategic Initiative Analytics FAQ's
An excellent strategic initiative has several essential characteristics. The three most important ones are:
- When presenting the initiative to the organization, explain the context of the strategic plan and not just its content.
- Involve the employees in the implementation to build ownership of the initiative at every level of the organization.
- Evaluate the initiative regularly through a reliable but dynamic system and, when necessary, adapt the initiative quickly.
It is an analytics functionality that provides customers with access to Adobe Experience Platform infrastructure's Analysis Workspace experience. It enables users to bring customer data from any channel into the Adobe Experience Platform and perform flow and fall-out analysis.
Strategic initiative roles are multifaceted and include responsibilities like:
- Identifying opportunities for improvement and growth
- Planning, executing, monitoring, and evaluating projects
- Developing and maintaining buy-in from stakeholders
- Creating timelines and ensuring that timelines are met
- Conducting research to keep the initiative grounded yet adaptive
Strategic objectives and strategic initiatives are closely connected. Strategic objectives state the what and why of your company's plans and goals. Strategic initiatives are the tools you will use to reach the strategic project objectives. They mention the how in addition to the what.
Regularly measuring strategic initiatives is vital to ensure they are on track. The best way is through milestones and metrics called KPIs or Key Performance Indicators.
Milestones are the steps through which you can achieve your specific goals. You can use relevant metrics to check when and how much you complete each milestone. Some examples of KPIs are financial data, marketing or sales targets, operational efficiency, sustainability goals, safety, etc.
A Director of Strategic Initiatives is usually the head of strategic goals in an organization.They are responsible for identifying opportunities and developing, overseeing, and managing all aspects of all strategic initiatives undertaken by the organization. It is a critical senior management position.
Strategic initiatives are necessarily unique to each organization. However, most businesses share some objectives in common. Hence, they would have some key strategic initiatives in common as well. 3 such initiatives are:
- Increasing market share
- Cost reduction
- Meeting environment and sustainability-related targets
Though strategic initiatives are crucial, quite often, they do not succeed. The rate of success of strategic initiatives is only around 30%. Most of them fail because of 3 causes:
- Lack of alignment
- Lack of focus
- Lack of discipline