What is a Strategic Initiative?
At its essence, a strategic initiative is a project or action that is carefully defined and designed to achieve your project objectives. In order to bring your strategy to fruition, you must decide on the outcomes you want to achieve and what winning means to you. It is also essential to identify the maneuvers or actions that will be required to achieve the intended outcomes.
Strategic leaders need to be proactive and prepare strategic initiatives before they are compelled to and before their competitors, rivals, or adversaries take action. They also need to create an array of actions and specific goals or targets that are mapped to each strategic initiative. These goals should be supported with specific measures of success or Key Performance Indicators designed to track progress. Each strategic initiative needs a corresponding plan of action that defines the specific tasks and steps as well as a specific completion date.
There are many different types of strategic initiatives, actions, or undertakings. Below are a few of the common types of initiatives that businesses, departments, or individuals may consider:
A fix-and-prune strategic initiative is an action designed to address an underlying problem or challenge that needs to be resolved or eliminated before you move on to larger actions that are more ambitious or innovative. Initiatives that are shorter term in nature and need to be implemented now often fall into the “fix-and-prune” category.
“Build-and-create” initiatives are more advanced and groundbreaking, designed to create a marked change in what you do or how you do it. For example, you might decide to start a major expansion in the services you offer or the markets you serve. It could also involve expanding capacity or geographic reach. These initiatives are likely to be significant in scale and/or resource-intensive endeavors.
Some types of strategic initiatives are more “offensive” in nature: progressive, insightful, proactive, and innovative. These could lead to game-changing solutions, totally new offerings, or disruptive, breakthrough ideas that will produce competitive advantage for your enterprise and greater value for your customers.
Defensive strategy is more cautious in nature and designed to maintain your position in the marketplace or preserve your existing competitive advantages rather than create new ones.
Other types of strategic initiatives are those that are accomplished over a longer period of time. They tend to be much more intensive, involved, or transformational in nature. These long-term changes require significantly more resources, talent, and budget to complete. These wildly important strategic goals that have to be accomplished might be referred to as “transformational” or “moon shots.”
Examples of Strategic Initiatives
There is a wide range of strategic initiatives that can be used as examples across organization types, functions, markets, and people. A few samples of strategic initiatives can be found below:
- Raise brand awareness with a social-media campaign
- Acquire or merge with a critical supplier of raw materials
- Launch a strategy to reduce outsourcing
- Open more customer-facing retail outlets
- Offer more products and services online
- Take active measures to become the preferred low-cost producer
- Implement an automated production system to reduce labor costs or increase quality
- Begin to aggressively develop leadership talent to support expansion plans
- Set out on a research effort to create the next generation of products
Most strategic initiatives require a team of diverse individuals with the right mix of talent and determination to achieve success and create a resilient organization. As we suggested earlier, some strategic initiatives need to be acted on now while others can be advanced on a longer timeline that better meets the needs and resources of the enterprise. Ultimately, successfully implementing a strategic initiative of any type will lead to greater value and benefits for the firm, its customers, its employees, and the community.