Operational planning is about looking into the immediate future for your sports organisation, program or team. The timeline for an operational plan is between one and three years. When thinking about the scope of your operational plans focus on all the activities that are vital to the day to day running of the entity.
It is important to distinguish the difference between an operational and strategic plan. Operational plans as stated before have a timeline of one to three years, while a strategic plan will look to examine a length of time from three to five years. In certain types of businesses and industries this timeline can be extended up to seven years but in a sporting context this would be unusual.
Another aspect which is sometimes discussed when talking about operational planning is Periodisation. Periodisation is an element of an operational planning fitting into activities and tasks associated with a team. Operational plans will cover a wider range of topics such as logistics, recruitment, etc. For operational plans of a program or sporting organisation the different categories will be even larger.
Your main focus from an operational plan should be to map out all the activities and tasks which need to be completed for the entity. For a sporting organisation the different categories or operational areas which could be included in your operational plan might include:
There are of course many more categories that could be included and every operations plan will be slightly different. Knowing what could be included in this plan will depend on exactly what your organisation or entity does.
It is recommended that when it comes to recording your information within your operational plan to utilise a table for the helpful presentation of the material. Breaking the table up into multiple columns will allow you to present related information together. It is suggested including the following titles for your columns:
Operational Areas/Categories: these are the broad areas your different tasks or activities will be broken into. For some organisations a simple way of thinking about this is the different departments within the entity.
Task/Activity: These are the specific actions you need or want performed. When considering what should be included here start by listing the various different things you already do in the day to day running of the organisation, program or team. To this add what you would like to do and that you are aware may increase your chances of success.
Priority: This will highlight which items are more important than others. For any person having everything listed from most to least important is an important technique in giving direction on what needs to be completed and when.
Responsibility: refers to who needs to be involved in completing the task or activity. This helps once again with people understanding what is required from them.
Deadline: helps to define when the task or activity needs to be completed. Those tasks with a higher priority and closer deadline should be completed first.
From the information already discussed the advantages of operational planning should be obvious. But some of the disadvantages or common issues can be less noticeable. If you are not familiar with the process it can be confusing and very difficult to have all the information included. It is best when initially starting to create your operational plan to have someone with prior experience involved.
Additionally, always try to do your operational planning with the widest possible range of opinions involved. In this way you allow for various peoples perspectives to be included. In a team situation having the Team Manager, Head Coach, Assistant Coach and Athletic Director involved could bring to the table various points otherwise overlooked.
If you can have the individuals involved prepare their list of items prior to the meeting then this also reflects a very useful strategy. Sometimes people working within the group context have their ideas stifled and this can lead to a less effective planning process.
Finally, always try to have your operational plan evaluated at the very least annually. Doing the plan is only one piece of the puzzle. To create a functional feedback loop there must be reflection and comment provided for future developments and improvement to the existing model. Working with people is not an exact science so not all operational planning models will work in every situation. But by starting this process you will be at the very least promoting discussion and sharing ideas. This in itself makes the process vert powerful and empowering.