Strategic Planning – 4th in A Series

Ed BurghardWhat gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated.”
– John E. Jones

Here are the first three posts in this series:

Strategic Planning – 1st in A Series

Strategic Planning – 2nd in A Series

Strategic Planning – 3rd in A Series

Supporting Systems and Measures

The first posts in this series deal with defining strategy design and deployment, and discussing two core questions – 1) “Where to play?” and 2) “How to win?”. This post focuses on creating up porting systems and measures.

In my experience, once the hard work of defining “Where to play” and ” How to win” is over, Leaders often make the mistake of assuming their Organizations will fill in be remaining missing blanks. This is a mistake, because defining supporting systems and measures is how you translate strategic choices into practical terms people can create action plans around. It is how you breath life into the strategic choices you have made.

It is also, the proverbial details where the Devil resides. Failure to create the required supporting systems and measures will ultimately result in the strategic plan becoming yet another dust collecting document on a shelf. My guess is most of us could claim – “Been there, done that, own the t-shirt.” Nothing is more frustrating than to invest the time, money and energy to create a strategic plan that catalyzes nothing.

Activity Network

A tool to help you identify supporting systems that are already in place, and areas where new (or better) supporting systems are needed is the activity map. To create one, you will use the ADCI sub indexes as the hubs and the related dimensions as the spokes. Dimensions where your community is outperforming competition are where you have strong supporting systems. Document the drivers and you will better understand what you need to protect and/or strengthen. Dimensions where your community is at a decided disadvantage need to be evaluated closely to determine why and assessed to decide if new supporting systems need to be created.

Defining the drivers of your community success in this manner is challenging work. Chances are, your community leaders have not had a conversation like this in a very long time (if ever). But having clarity on what the most important systems and processes are to ensure you community can win is mandatory for success. This is also the area where you will see the greatest emotion and self-interest displayed by involved stakeholders. That is because each will want he supporting systems that are most closely aligned with heir work to be included in the top priority list for funding.

The key is to ensure the activity network created provides your community with a clear competitive advantage. If it placates your loudest critics, but fails to create a competitive advantage, then your community’s strategic plan will be weak and he results you want won’t likely happen. In many cases, it is a good idea to create sub-teams (eg one for each ADCI sub index) resourced with a facilitator to create a sub index activity diagram. Then you can combine the diagrams into a single activity network. Have each sub-team comprised of the stakeholders who have the greatest knowledge and will be the most engaged in deploying any action plan for that sub index hub. This helps you create a dynamic where you get the benefit of your subject matter experts and make them part of creating the solution.


There are two types of measures to consider. The end process measure is the ADCI score for each sub index. This is the performance grade your residents provide after the fact. The other is called an in process measure. This gives you insight into what is working or not working in sufficient time for you to makes adjustments. The key question to ask is – “What specifically am I going o do if the score is up, down, or sideways?”.

Many people like to call in process measures, dashboard measures. They are like the dashboard of a car and give you the data you need to adjust on the fly.  In process measures should be actionable.  In a perfect world, they correlate closely with the end process measure.  Your in-process measures should give you perspective on the progress you are making in better enabling the American Dream for your residents.  You should have in process measures for each of the key activities supporting your activity hubs so you can ascertain if you are moving in the right direction or an intervention is required to be on track.  In my experience, it is very important to have stakeholder alignment to the measures you select for your dashboard.  And, it is important that you communicate progress frequently.  That way, if an intervention is required stakeholders are not surprised and can rally resources quickly to fix a problem before it becomes a crisis.


Defining supporting systems and measures is a very important step in the strategic planning and deployment process, but often not treated as one.  Typically, existing measures are selected without consideration s to whether they are the best measures.  It is important you select the right measures.  This can mean you need to invest in measuring something you have not been tracking before.  For example, when I was leading the Ohio branding effort I implemented a market research study to assess how business leaders in and outside of Ohio perceived the state on a series of attributes important for building our desired identity.  This was a new measure and required funding.  But, it was an important measure that gave us insight into whether we were actually changing the perception of Ohio and we used the data to make changes to our marketing efforts.  To help you better understand if you are enabling the American Dream for your residents, you may want to consider implementing a local market research study that can give you insight on a quarterly basis as to whether you are making forward progress.

What is your experience with in process measures?  Which have you found to be the most reliable?  Which are the most actionable?  Please leave a comment.

Read About My Journey To Learn More About The American Dream

American Dream Case Study Series

Indiana versus Michigan

Florida versus North Carolina

New York versus New Jersey

California versus Texas

Pennsylvania versus New York

North Carolina versus Texas

Ohio versus Michigan

How Easy Is It To Achieve The American Dream In Your State?

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7 Comments so far

  1. […] Document the drivers and you will better understand what you need to protect and/or strengthen. Dimensions where your community is at a decided disadvantage need to be evaluated closely to determine why and assessed to decide if new …  […]

  2. […] Failure to create the required supporting systems and measures will ultimately result in the strategic plan becoming yet another dust collecting document on a shelf. My guess is most of us could claim – “Been there, done that, own the t-shirt.  […]

  3. Gulelat Kebede

    May 27, 2013

    Good insight. Visioning is exciting and brings energy to the community to get started, but most of the effort of strategic planning should be focused on setting measurable goals and real actions. A main reason for skepticism about LED strategic planning is the unfortunate experience with many big vision plans staying on the shelf, because they lacked concrete and measurable goals and actions, and implementation instruments.

  4. Ed Morrison

    May 27, 2013

    Ed, as you know, I have been working for some time to refine the process of strategic doing: a discipline to develop and execute strategy in open, loosely connected networks. One of the core insights of this work: People in a network do not move toward visions. They are too vague to engage both heart and mind. Instead, people need clear, measurable outcomes.

    The paradox: In order to get consensus, we believe that we must increase the level of generality. This tendency explains why vision statements frequently get washed out with vague wording. In fact, to drive consensus, we need to become far more specific with our outcomes. They must be measurable. When we drive conversation to that level, consensus emerges more easily.

    But outcomes, standing alone, are not enough to move a network. We also need a pathway, marked by milestones (another form of metric). Before moving, people need to know they can get from here to there.

  5. Jim Claybaugh

    May 29, 2013

    My experience is that ED professionals tend to prefer output-based performance measures as opposed to outcome-based, though I’ve made attempts to include outcomes in the goal-setting portions of the strategic plans I’ve developed.

    My supervisors would usually give me a “What are you doing?!” look and I would amend them.

  6. Charlie Thompson

    June 10, 2013

    “Plans” that lack definition of objective measures is not a plan, It’s a wish list. The fact that a great many public leaders, especially in small, rural communities, don’t know the difference merely creates a market for those who write volumes of really neat verbiage actually “says” absolutely nothing. In fact, I’ve never seen a single “strategic plan” that consisted of more than articulating the obvious (with respect to the community itself) and the most general references to actions of any kind. Rule of thumb: If the plan doesn’t define “hard” goals that can be measured in the amount of capital investment attracted, the number of jobs created and the amount of new revenue anticipated within a semi-hard time table, then it isn’t a plan. It’s a two pound door stop.

  7. […] professionals accountable for better enabling residents to achieve their American Dream. Decisions on asset creation, infrastructure investment and public policy/programs must be evaluated against […]

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