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More than business jargon: why strategic initiatives are important in project management 9 min read
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Business leaders often have a list of bold, aggressive objectives that form the big-picture vision for a company or team. You might want to increase revenue by 50% in 5 years, for example, or use your eco-friendly products to initiate a sea change in the market. These goals often seem just out of reach, which begs the question: how do you get there from where you are now?

That’s where strategic initiatives come in — they create a roadmap that your company or team can follow to move closer to its ultimate vision. Let’s examine what a strategic initiative is, how to make one, and how to use it to improve your business or team.

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What is a strategic initiative?

A strategic initiative is a plan of action that helps an organization or team make progress toward its high-level vision or objectives. Leaders create strategic initiatives with defined outcomes in mind; a single initiative might include a variety of projects and a selection of smaller milestones. Critically, leaders establish a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress.

Prioritization is the key to successful strategic initiatives. Each one should line up with the company’s most important objectives; that way, you can rest assured that employees are putting in the effort where it matters most.

A strategic initiative won’t necessarily get you all the way to the ultimate goal; the point is simply to get closer. It’s important to keep that idea in mind as you consider the purpose of each initiative.

What is the purpose of strategic initiatives?

The purpose of strategic initiatives is to identify and execute practical actions to move toward a high-level goal. Each initiative breaks down big objectives into smaller, more achievable projects — this process reduces overwhelm and enables teams to start making progress.

How to build a strategic initiative: step by step

A strategic initiative is a significant undertaking that requires both time and resources. To get the most from your investment, take the time to analyze your needs and plan the process. Company leaders should participate; you might also consider including managers from the departments that will play a part in the outcome.

1. Identify an objective

Analyze the vision and goals in your company’s strategic plan, and choose an objective to pursue. Before you select one, consider both the priorities of the company and your current ability to make progress toward the specific goal.

2. Define an outcome

Identify an outcome that relates directly to your chosen objective. Let’s say that one of your company’s major goals is to be the dominant social media presence in the industry. Your competitors’ current follower counts are twice the size of yours, so you might create a strategic initiative to increase your following by 25%.

3. Establish milestones

Work backward from your desired outcome to lay out the milestones you’ll need to meet along the way. To keep your team motivated, choose milestones that are achievable. Think of them like stepping stones — employees should be able to see how to get to the next stone, even if the end of the path is out of sight.

4. Create a plan of action

Now that you have a set of milestones, it’s time to create a strategy to achieve each goal.

Identify the people involved, the steps they need to take, and the tactics they can use. It’s helpful to involve team leaders and project managers in this process; they have valuable insight that makes it easier to refine the plan. When the strategy is complete, you can allocate resources based on the scope of each phase.

5. Set key performance indicators

Before embarking on strategic initiatives, identify the metrics that will help you measure progress toward individual milestones and the final goal. The KPIs you choose should be tailored to specific goals. If the overall initiative is to increase revenue, for example, you could track qualified leads, new contracts, and the average value of each sale. One of your smaller milestones might be to boost sales calls by 25%; to monitor progress, you can use metrics, such as the average length of each call and the number of calls per day.

6. Analyze and adapt

In business, things rarely go exactly to plan; unexpected information, new discoveries, and other unknowns can arise at any time. To keep the team on track, get into a habit of regular monitoring and analysis. Measure key performance indicators against your timeline and budget, and make adjustments as necessary. Your project management team can play an important role in this process.

KPI tracking helps your team spot inefficiencies during a strategic initiative and adapt quickly to keep projects on course.

Benefits of using strategic initiatives in project management

In project management, you can use strategic initiatives on a macro and micro level. The macro level involves your team’s role in the larger company initiatives. In this case, the overarching purpose and individual milestones of CEO strategic initiatives can provide direction and inform your decisions as a project manager. Say the company is working on an initiative to beat competitors to production with an innovative new product, with the end goal of capturing a majority of the market share. Speed is the priority — so if your team has to decide between a material that’s affordable and one that can be delivered quickly, the choice is clear.

On a micro level, you can create initiatives within your team. This is particularly effective when you have a big group or you’re working toward a large, unwieldy goal. A defined strategic initiative provides focus and direction to keep employees moving forward.

Examples of strategic initiatives and what they could mean for your team

Whether you’re creating strategic initiatives for the entire company or a single team, it’s helpful to consider what you want to achieve. The type of initiative you choose will determine the end goal, milestones, strategies, and KPIs.

Growth initiatives

If business growth is one of your company’s main objectives, an initiative is a great way to get the ball rolling. The scope and outcome will depend on your current stage of business development. For startups, a sales or marketing initiative can set the company on an upward trajectory, even if you have limited product or service offerings. If your organization is well-established, you might look at an expansion initiative that aims to increase your customer base, market share, or revenue. When you max out your current capacity, consider initiatives to help the business reach new audiences or create new offerings.

Problem-solving initiatives

Have you noticed a specific problem within the business or team? A strategic initiative is one way to fix it without assigning blame or putting employees on the defensive. These initiatives, which usually have a relatively small scope and a short timeline, can also help you pinpoint the underlying issues that are causing the problem in the first place.

If your team is consistently late meeting deadlines, you might create a time-management initiative to a 90% on-time delivery rate. Milestones could include planning, initial concept, choosing materials, selecting vendors, prototyping, testing, and refining. Spreading out smaller project goals forces the team to take consistent action, which builds time-management skills. Because you’re tracking KPIs, you might find that the missed deadlines happen because suppliers take longer than expected to provide quotes. You could then adjust your project timelines accordingly to resolve the issue.

Competitive initiatives

Competitive strategic initiatives help you keep or improve your position in the market. Consider this type of initiative if you want to:

  • Increase innovation: Use a strategic initiative to motivate employees to think creatively and find new solutions to help cut costs, increase profits, or boost efficiency.
  • Take market share from competitors: These initiatives help you outperform other businesses in the industry to win a portion of their audience and command more of the total sales
  • Defend your existing position: If your competitors are hot on your heels, you might want to reinforce your competitive advantage with initiatives that improve products, offer exclusive benefits, or provide additional options for customers.

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Target business goals with strategic initiatives from

Successful strategic initiatives require exceptional organization. With, it’s easy to plan projects within an initiative and use individual project dashboards to see how close teams are to meeting each milestone. Track progress in real time with a KPI Dashboard; you can design it to reflect the most important metrics.

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Frequently asked questions

What are strategic initiatives?

Strategic initiatives are comprehensive action plans that outline the steps a company needs to make progress toward a high-level vision or objective. Each initiative includes a variety of smaller goals and milestones that help employees achieve a defined outcome.

How do you develop strategic initiatives?

To develop strategic initiatives, identify high-priority objectives for your company or team. Then, set goals that bring you closer to those objectives. Turn each goal into an initiative by breaking it down into smaller, more accessible milestones, and develop a strategy to reach individual milestones.

How do you evaluate strategic initiatives?

Evaluate strategic initiatives by choosing key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure the results you want to see. Monitor your KPIs over time to determine if teams are making adequate progress. If not, you can adjust the strategy to suit available resources, skills, and time.

Using strategic initiatives wisely

When it comes to setting strategic initiatives, less is more. By prioritizing initiatives, you can help employees stay focused on a single goal; fewer distractions lead to faster progress. Use to stay on top of project management, both for individual milestones and the strategic initiative as a whole.

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