Difference Between Strategic & Operating Initiative

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Companies rely on well-constructed strategic and operating initiatives.
Companies rely on well-constructed strategic and operating initiatives. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Strategic initiatives involve the process of corporate planning, the design of long-term goals meant to improve a company. Operating initiatives are more specific, leading specific operational changes in a company that carry out a process. Strategic initiatives come first, whereby a company sets its goals and designs its objectives. Companies then create their operating goals, designing specific steps that lead a company to the completion of their strategic initiatives.

Strategic Foundation

Your company founds its strategic initiatives on its overall goals and objectives. Companies review their strategic initiatives in the framework of company ideals and motivations. Strategic initiatives provide a framework for operating initiatives. For instance, your company’s strategic initiative may be to fortify and improve your electronic research and development programs to stay competitive with other companies in your field. While the general idea of improving research and development is a positive goal, it does not provide any actionable guidance toward how the fortification and improvements will be implemented.

Operating Foundation

The foundation of your company's operating initiatives are the strategic initiatives. Once a strategic initiative is formed, you create operating initiatives that describe exactly how a strategic goal will be implemented. Operating initiatives have specific goals built in, providing a goal-to-goal perspective on an issue. As an example, your operating initiative may be to hire 15 more research and development employees, improve the research and development budget by 25 percent and to begin working on four new projects within a two-month period. Each specific goal is an operating goal, providing a clear perspective for when you reach each goal.

Strategic Clarity

Strategic initiatives are necessarily vague, although employees work to reduce the vague nature of these proposals. Unfortunately, the step-by-step set-backs, planning problems and situational needs of each objective makes it impossible to accurately predict the needs of an initiative. As a result, people understand that strategic initiatives are guidelines, flexible for later revision if a goal needs to be changed. For instance, you may learn that your current budget is not able to sustain the level of growth in your research and development office that you intended and you could be forced to either take the money from another department or accept a reduced research and development expansion.

Operating Clarity

Companies build operating initiatives around specific and clear goals, with clear timetables established to guide the process. Each objective has a specific deadline, and while revision is often necessary, the chance of severe revision is less likely. As an example, if your responsibility is to hire the 15 new research employees and you only have 10, you can extend the deadline and give yourself more time. The revisions performed at the operating stage are less severe because the individuals who set the operating goals work closer to the implementation and are more aware of the requirements for each step.

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