Your strategic plan is the roadmap to success for your organization, connecting decision-making with a shared vision. A strong strategic plan affects every department and all levels of stakeholders, whether you’re a senior leader for your city or part of the municipal staff. But designing a roadmap for the future is only one part of the process. If there’s no implementation, the goals and milestones you’ve meticulously mapped out might as well be stuck in the glovebox. It’s like starting a car on an empty tank of gas—it takes an action plan to rev the engine, navigate, and reach your destination.

Strategic plan vs. action plan


A strong strategic plan outlines your vision for the future, and helps to prioritize goals, make resourcing decisions, and rally employees, council members, stakeholders, and citizens around a shared vision.

Components of a strategic plan include:

  • Comprehensive objectives that clearly specify the goals your city is trying to achieve over a short and long period of time
  • KPIs, or key performance indicators, that are actionable and quantifiable to be able to accurately measure your progress towards short- and long-term goals
  • Major initiatives and projects to be implemented that will help your organization advance on its KPIs and reach determined goals

Once a strategic plan is created, the next step is—you guessed it—an action plan. An action plan puts your strategy into the heads, hearts, and hands of the people who will make a real, measurable difference by implementing your strategic plan.

An action (or implementation) plan includes:

  • The day-to-day activities of your organization over a specified timeframe that will enable the strategic plan
  • Allocation of resources that will drive the strategic plan forward
  • Action items owned by different departments or staff members
  • Progress reporting structure and timeline

Why you need a strategic plan and an action plan


When it comes to designing a strategic plan and reaching organizational goals, 90 percent of organizations fail to execute their strategies. With a number this high, the importance of having an action plan in addition to your strategy is the key to success. One can’t happen without the other.

Your action plan takes your strategic plan and makes it operational—it brings your strategy to life. The purpose of your action plan is to provide your staff with responsibilities, tasks, and resources to make the strategy impactful. Having both plans in place helps your organization turn your strategy from a two-dimensional document into measurable action.

For more expert advice about taking your strategic plan, putting it into gear, and making it actionable—listen to our expert panel who offer insights from their experience leading change in cities across North America.