4. Crafting an Operating PlanBenchmark #4: Crafting an Operating Plan
Why You Need an Operating Plan
Decades ago, Thane Yost wrote, “The will to win is worthless if you do not have the will to prepare.” Indeed, over the course of history, poor planning has been the demise of many an undertaking. From Napoleon Bonaparte’s battle at Waterloo to Robert Scott’s fateful Antarctic journey to John Krakaur’s account of a group of weekend explorers who vanished “Into Thin Air” attempting to climb Mt. Everest, poor planning is blamed for many-if not most-failed endeavors. Plain and simple, failing to plan is planning to fail.
Certainly, the same can be said for worksite health promotion initiatives. In fact, in what many consider to be a landmark study conducted by the American Productivity and Quality Center and the MedStat Group in 1998, one critical benchmark of world-class worksite wellness initiatives is a detailed, focused, outcome-oriented business plan. And, while this is not necessarily an earth shattering revelation for most practitioners, what is significant is that, according to a recent survey conducted by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, only 17% of U.S. worksites who offered at least one health promotion activity had a formally articulated set of goals and objectives!
But why is an operating plan central to success? And what exactly are the components of effective wellness plans? Last but not least, if a carefully prepared operating plan is so important to the success of any worksite wellness initiative, why do so few practitioners actually embrace the process? These are very intriguing questions-ones that we will address in this online monograph.
What You’ll Learn In This Online Monograph
Accepting the Challenge
By accepting the challenge of developing an operating plan, you and your wellness team will be forced to take a look at the big picture. And, if you are to be successful, you’ll need this exercise in order to answer the $64,000 question: How is your program going to benefit both your employees and the company. In essence, the planning process is the exercise that allows you to think creatively about what your workplace needs in order to become individually and organizationally healthier.
The Need for an Operating Plan
Let’s cut to the chase. Whatever your approach to worksite wellness, the odds are you are going to be much more successful if you have a business plan. Here’s why:
Creating a plan forces you to consider your company’s needs, and strategic priorities. Both research and common sense tell us that those wellness practitioners who are able to successfully link health promotion objectives to business priorities are much more likely to produce meaningful outcomes. In addition, they have a better chance of having the wellness program firmly embraced by the key players throughout the organization.
Your plan legitimizes and communicates your program to senior managers.
If you are employed by an organization that has been around for several years, you can bet that it is driven by a business plan that articulates the strategic direction. Your program should too — and it should support and refer to the company’s plan. With a plan, your chances of getting and keeping the support and resources you need from upper management are significantly increased.
A plan gives your program continuity through personnel changes.
Let’s face it — turnover is a fact of life today, and without written documents, much hard work can be lost for good when a key employee leaves the team. With a plan, new members of your wellness team get a comprehensive picture of your program — right from the start.
A plan provides the energy to get things moving.
Because the operating plan articulates your specific goals and objectives — the things that need to get done — it is invaluable in holding your group accountable for its actions. In essence, the accountability created by carefully developed goals and objectives serves as a kind of productive energy that fuels the fire of your team, thus propelling the team into action.
A plan serves as a means to measure — and prove — the effectiveness of your program. Because your plan captures both your present position and where you would like to be a year from now, it serves as an important barometer for measuring change. What’s more, when you submit next year’s budget, it sure helps to have documentation to show progress toward your goals.
The Seven Elements of an Operating Plan
As the cornerstone of your program, it is essential that your plan address several important elements. Generally, the wellness plan will, at a minimum, cover the following components: the overall goal of the program, the specific objectives, the implementation strategies and timeline, the communication mix, and the detailed budget.
1. Vision Statement
Your vision statement is the envisioned future you are trying to achieve. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article authored by management legends James Collins and Jerry Porras, vision statements are somewhat paradoxical things which must convey concreteness — something visible, vivid, and real, and they must address a time yet unrealized — complete with dreams, hopes, and aspirations.
Your goals allow you to articulate precisely when it is you will “declare victory.” In light of this, your goals should be given careful consideration as they will be the landmarks toward which you will direct all of your programming efforts.
Writing good objectives is a very challenging task and will demand a concerted effort on the part of the wellness committee. To be successful, objectives must be SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time specific.
4. Implementation and Timeline
Having established the overall goal and written SMART objectives, it is time to outline the implementation procedures and timeline. This section of the plan should provide detailed information highlighting the months, dates, and times the various programs will be offered. Information concerning individual responsibilities and methods of accountability will also be contained in this section.
5. Marketing and Communications Mix
This section of the annual operating plan should address the types of marketing and communication mediums that will be used in getting the message out to your employees. Company brochures and newsletters, e-mail, intranet, website, videos, etc. all represent potential vehicles to disseminate information to your employees.
6. Itemized Budget
Although health promotion programs need not require enormous resources, it is clear that, to be effective, some investment will be necessary. This portion of the plan should provide accurate, complete, and realistic information concerning the amount of money it will take to achieve your outcomes.
7. Evaluation Plan
The final section of your annual operating plan should address the evaluation aspect of your program and should answer the question, “How do we know if we have been successful?”
Why Begin Your Operating Plan With a Vision Statement?
In addition to immediately engaging the reader, vision statements serve to stimulate the creative juices of the reader to consider “what’s possible.” And, if crafted properly, vision statements can coax key players to consider what role they’ll play in creating this new reality. Ideally, your vision statement should reflect the core values of your organization and it should be bold, compelling and downright inspiring. Oh, and by the way, they need not be long or verbose — some companies have done it in just a sentence or two!
Tips for Crafting Your Operating Plan
Just DO IT!
If you think that crafting an annual operating plan sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. But if you want your program to be taken seriously, to have a lasting impact, and to produce measurable results, you need to plan at a professional level.
With a good operating plan, you’re in a position to roll up your sleeves and get into the nitty gritty of your wellness program — designing interventions to meet your goals and objectives. See the Choosing Appropriate Interventions section for more details.
Design of Workplace Health Promotion Programs by Michael P. O’Donnell, PD, MBA, MPH. Call (800) 783-9913 to order.
Health Promotion: Sourcebook for Small Businesses published by the Wellness Councils of America and Canada. Call (402) 827-3590 to order.
Say It and Live It: 50 Corporate Mission Statements That Hit the Mark
Social Marketing by Philip Kotler and Eduardo Roberto
Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating
Health Promotion Programs: A Primer, 2nd Edition by J. McKenzie and J. Smeltzer