As with any business planning, developing a tactical plan starts with a disciplined process. The more attention paid to organizing and clarifying information upfront, the easier the planning will be. This is especially true when developing tactics, as ideas can be formed that may not be realistic or effective. As a rule, tactical planning should always follow strategic planning.
Review the strategic plan and ensure that its goals are clear. This should always be done first to ground the process and streamline thinking. Resolve any questions on priorities and clarify expectations.
List other factors that could affect the plan. What if more funding becomes available? What if funding is cut? Will new competitors be entering the market? When will decisions be made for subsequent years? Will results need to be available before decisions can be made?
Gain agreement on how tactics will be evaluated. For example, is budget the overriding factor or is it contribution to sales? Review these priorities upfront to ensure the process stays focused.
Assign deadlines, as planning can often get pushed aside because of day-to-day demands. Ensure that the deadlines are communicated to the entire team to avoid surprises and last-minute efforts.
Generate tactical ideas using the strategic goals as guidance. Brainstorm freely and don't discount any ideas. This is the stage for inspiration, not evaluation, so be bold and creative.
Cull down the list to the tactics that have the most potential to achieve the strategic goals. Give particular consideration to how ideas will be evaluated and measured. For example, don't spend a great deal of time considering TV advertising if the budget will never allow it.
Dig deeper and gather more information on each tactic to be considered. Understand the needs for implementation including timing, resources and budget. Research whether effectiveness can be measured.
Evaluate each tactic with the information gathered. Choose and prioritize which tactics should go into the plan. Review how individual elements work together to make a synergistic plan.
Fill in the details. Lay out how tactics will be executed on a calendar. Chart responsibilities, decision points and deadlines. Add up the budget in order of priorities.
Leave time to revise the plan should management want changes. Very often, questions will arise that need to be addressed. Be prepared for this by not waiting for the last moment to get buy-in.
Schedule "status updates" at regular intervals to discuss how the plan is working. Be sure and report any lessons learned before planning begins for the following year.
Evaluate how the process went. Are there things that could have gone more smoothly? Were there too many or too few people involved? Did management approval come at the right time in the process?
File away information on ideas that were considered but not included. Tactical plans, like any plans, have a way of changing. New opportunities and unexpected obstacles will always emerge. It's good to have back-up ideas available that have already been researched.