Strategic Planning Part II: Outlining Strategic Objectives and Strategic Measures

Written by

Chuen Seet

After defining your strategic vision and setting strategic goals, the next step in the strategic planning process is translating your goals into strategic objectives. By this point you know why implementing your strategic plan is important. Now it’s time to show why by outlining quantifiable objectives.

What is a strategic objective?

If you remember from the last article, a strategic vision statement defines where your organization aspires to be in the future and strategic goals outline desired outcomes that need to be achieved in order to actualize that vision. Strategic objectives take things a step further by breaking down each strategic goal into specific, quantifiable aims.

What is the difference between strategic objectives and strategic goals?

Whereas strategic goals are broad and big-picture, strategic objectives are specific, measurable, and timebound. Strategic goals define what needs to be achieved, and strategic objectives begin to define the how and when. When translating strategic goals into strategic objectives, your tasks become increasingly more granular and more clearly defined.

However, strategic objectives are created in the early stages of strategic planning, so it’s important not to be too rigid in your planning. Later on, when you begin building a strategic roadmap, you’ll break your strategic objectives down into business capability change actions, package your actions into initiatives, and then use a prioritization matrix to map your initiatives on a time horizon. So, at this point, your strategic objectives don’t have to be exact – but they should be becoming more exact.

Translating strategic goals into strategic objectives by being SMART

If you remember in our last article, we were outlining strategic planning for a furniture retail chain. Their strategic vision was: To be the most recognizable and profitable furniture retail chain in the southeast.

In order to achieve that vision, the furniture retail chain had identified a handful of strategic goals:

  • Increase retail sales and market penetration.
  • Reduce supply chain costs.
  • Formalize 3 new partnerships with up-and-coming furniture manufacturers.
  • Grow following on social media platforms.

While those strategic goals are more specific than the vision, they’re still fairly broad. To turn those strategic goals into strategic objectives, we need to get more specific. A useful framework for turning strategic goals into strategic objectives is to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timebound. Let’s breakdown each of those attributes:

  • Specific: A strategic objective should outline exactly what you want your organization to achieve.
  • Measurable: Strategic objectives should be quantifiable with ways to measure success.
  • Actionable: There should be specific actions that can be created to achieve a strategic objective.
  • Relevant: Strategic objectives should be realistically attainable and make a meaningful impact on your overall success and the realization of your vision.
  • Timebound: Strategic objectives should include realistic deadlines based on your best projections at this stage of the strategic planning process.

Basically, an effective strategic objective should leave zero ambiguity about whether or not it has been fully achieved.

Examples of strategic objectives

Taking the strategic goals in the section above, we have to make them SMART. We could translate those goals into the following strategic objectives:

Strategic Goal: Increase retail sales and market penetration.

  • Strategic Objective: Open new retail locations in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Nashville by Q3 2025.

Notice how we took a broad strategic goal and translated it into a strategic objective that’s specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and timebound.

Sometimes a single strategic goal can be broken down into multiple strategic objectives as you begin to brainstorm how you will accomplish that goal.

Strategic Goal: Reduce supply chain costs.

  • Strategic Objective: Reduce supply chain costs by 12% by optimizing inventory management and transportation routes.
  • Strategic Objective: Add 24 electric vehicles to our fleet by Q2 2026 to reduce energy costs for transportation.
  • Strategic Objective: Explore new supply chain partnerships that are more cost effective.

As you’ll notice from the examples above, at this stage in the strategic planning process your strategic objectives might not be 100% SMART since you’re still lacking important information. Later on, a strategic roadmap will help you fully define your timelines for each objective based on capability maps, cost-benefit analysis, and prioritization tools. But each of these strategic objectives is far closer to being SMART than the strategic goals that inspired them.

Below are strategic objectives for each of the remaining goals:

Strategic Goal: Formalize 3 new partnerships with up-and-coming furniture manufacturers.

  • Strategic Objective: Formalize 3 new partnerships with up-and-coming furniture manufacturers by attending major tradeshows this calendar year and investing in new sales and marketing collateral.

Strategic Goal: Grow following on social media platforms.

  • Strategic Objective: Grow following on social media platforms by 35% over the next calendar year by releasing compelling content with greater regularity, reaching out to key influencers, and utilizing keyword and hashtag research.

The importance of KPIs and measuring strategy

Since strategic objectives are quantifiable, you should have strategic measures in place so that you can effectively measure your progress. Creating KPIs, or key performance indicators, in advance helps to inform your strategic decisions, justify your budget, and make sure you’re on the right track as you begin implementing your strategic plan.

Type of KPIs and strategic measures

There are two types of KPIs: leading indicators and lagging indicators. Leading indicators are strategic measures that predict successful outcomes, and lagging indicators are strategic measures that prove successful outcomes.

During this stage of strategic planning, you should outline both types of KPIs for each of your strategic objectives.

Creating strategic measures

Taking the examples of strategic objectives from earlier, let’s create some strategic measures that the furniture retail chain can use to monitor their progress towards their goals.

Take for instance the strategic objective of: Opening new retail locations in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Nashville by Q3 2025. Leading indicators for this objective might include:

  • The number of viable properties or locations identified in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Nashville.
  • The number of bids made towards purchasing or renting those locations.
  • The number of quotes received from construction contractors for each of those locations.

Notice that those two strategic measures aren’t directly measuring successful outcomes, but they’re measuring actions that make successful outcomes more likely.
Lagging indicators for this strategic objective might include:

  • The number of close contracts for bids on new retail locations.
  • The number of construction companies under contract.
  • The number of sales for each new location.

These strategic measures prove that the strategic objective was successfully achieved. Since the furniture retail chain identified Q3 2025 as their timeline for achieving this objectives, these strategic measure can also be arranged on a time horizon to make sure that the necessary progress is being made to fulfil that deadline.

Continue to learn more about strategic planning

Now that you have outlined strategic objectives and have strategic measures in place, you’re almost halfway through the strategic planning process! However, there’s still more work to done before you’re ready to build a business roadmap.

Carry on reading to find out more:

Miss Part I of the series? Find it here: Strategic Planning Part I: Defining Strategic Vision and Setting Strategic Goals

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