What Are Strategic Initiatives? A Complete How-to Guide.

Mila Chervenkova

Mila Chervenkova

Marketing Expert | Agile, Kanban & OKR Practitioner

Table of Contents:

What Are Strategic Initiatives? 

Strategic initiatives are projects or actions that aim to achieve strategic objectives. The success of your strategy depends on deciding what you want to accomplish and what winning means to you. It is also essential to determine which maneuvers or actions will be required to achieve the desired outcomes.

Strategic initiatives are the fundamental core of any organization's strategy and the most critical aspect of its success. Without them, an organization would not be able to achieve its goals, long-term objectives, and vision.

Executive Leadership requires proactive planning and preparation before competitors, rivals, or adversaries take action. Additionally, activities and specific goals or targets need to be mapped to each strategic initiative. To track progress, these goals should be accompanied by specific measures of success. There must be a plan of action for every strategic initiative that outlines the specific tasks, steps, and completion date.

What Are the Common Types of Strategic Initiatives?

Various kinds of strategic initiatives, actions, and undertakings exist. The following is a list of the types of initiatives that businesses, departments, or individuals may consider.

1. Build-and-Create Initiatives

2. Defensive Initiatives

3. Offensive Initiatives

4. Fix-and-Prune Initiatives

5. Time-Based Initiatives

1. Build-and-Create Initiatives

The "build-and-create" initiative - also called expansive or constructive initiative - is more advanced and innovative, designed to change what you do and how you do it. If you want to expand your services or markets, you might decide to launch a major expansion, expand capacity, or geographically reach. These initiatives are likely to be large or resource-intensive.

2. Defensive Initiatives

In contrast to creating new competitive advantages, the defensive strategy focuses more on preserving your position in the marketplace or maintaining your existing competitive advantages.

3. Offensive (Disruptive or Innovative) Initiatives

Also known as disruptive or innovative, there are types of strategic initiatives that are "offensive" in nature: insightful, progressive, proactive, and innovative. You may come up with game-changing solutions, completely new offerings, or disruptive, breakthrough ideas that will give your enterprise a competitive edge and benefit your customers.

4. Fix-and-Prune (Corrective) Initiatives

Fix-and-prune or corrective strategic initiatives address an important problem or obstacle that must be addressed or removed before moving on to more ambitious or innovative actions. Short-term initiatives that need to be implemented now often fall into the "fix-and-prune" category.

5. Time-Based Initiatives

Another type of strategic initiative is a long-term initiative. Typically, they are much more involved, transformational, or intensive. In order to complete these long-term changes, we will need significantly more talent, budget, and resources. The strategic goals that need accomplishment are often called "moon shots" (transformational).

How to Develop Strategic Initiatives in 5 Steps?

There are five steps to take to develop a good strategic initiative plan. 

1. Set a Goal. In order to get started, you must know what you are doing. Your strategic initiative will likely be waged across dozens of fronts. 

2. Set Objectives. Objectives are long-term goals that are specific, measurable, and realistic. Setting up strategic initiatives is the time to define them. As milestones, they indicate the beginning of a new phase after the end of an earlier one. Some widely recognized tools for setting goals include OKR or SMART goals.

3. Set the Strategy. The next step is to determine how you'll accomplish your goals. You might monitor program metrics to determine where efficiencies can be created or train your team or sales force to produce a better product or service and reach out to more customers.

4. Set up a Plan. Regardless of whether or not an initiative is strategic, plans remain the same. To accomplish your objectives, you should start with a larger deliverable and then break it down into smaller and smaller tasks that are given duration and a schedule. Your project plan should be transparent in the sense that it is visible to your entire team, allowing everyone to work together efficiently. To ensure the success of the strategic initiative, they need to understand their project roles and responsibilities.

5. Enlist your team. When you have a strategy and a plan, you must enlist your team. Once they buy in, the whole thing becomes a reality. They are responsible for carrying it out. Ensure they are on track and receive feedback by providing them with directions, monitoring their progress, and meeting with them regularly.

Common Mistakes that Lead Strategic Initiatives to Failure 

Strategic initiatives can fail to execute for various reasons, ranging from organizational challenges to external factors. The alarming fact is that the percentage of companies that fail to execute their strategies successfully is relatively high (according to one study, this percentage is 90%!). As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the success of your strategy depends on what actions you take. 

To ensure successful strategy execution, here are some common mistakes to avoid when it comes to successfully implemented strategic initiatives: 

  • Strategic initiatives are poorly defined. This is a reason for teams and stakeholders to feel confused and unable to prioritize and execute initiatives effectively. 
  • Strategic initiatives are not aligned with the company's top priorities. When strategic alignment is missing, every aspect (teams, resources, goals) of the organization does not work together toward achieving the most desired outcomes. 
  • Lack of focus and discipline. Changes in project scope, requirements, or priorities mid-way through implementation can disrupt progress and lead to delays or resource constraints. Maintaining focus and discipline in executing strategic initiatives while remaining responsive to changing needs is essential. 
  • Lack of supporting leadership. Strong leadership support and commitment are essential for driving successful strategy execution.  
  • No or inefficient communication. Install an open communication system across all organizational levels to ensure everyone knows how their day-to-day tasks align with and impact the overall strategy execution

Strategic Initiative vs. Strategic Goals vs. Strategic Objectives vs. Strategic Vision: How Do They Differ?

Even though they are all components of the organization’s strategic planning and provide direction to the execution efforts, in fact there are differences between them all as they serve different purposes. 

In short, strategic goals provide the overarching vision of the company, strategic objectives define the measurable targets supporting that vision, and strategic initiatives are the concrete actions taken to accomplish those objectives and, ultimately, the organization's goals. 

  Definition Scope Examples
Strategic Vision  This is an overview of where the company wants to be in the years to come. It presents an ideal scenario that is still attainable and provides direction to the company’s strategy and efforts.  Long-term, inspiring, ambitious, purpose-driven, and aligned with the company’s mission and values.  To revolutionize the way people connect and interact with technology, empowering individuals and businesses to thrive in a digitally interconnected world.
Strategic Goals  High-level objectives define a company's vision and overall business strategy. They represent the long-term vision and direction of the organization. A high-level objective is a more general endpoint that speaks to the company's needs. Qualitative and focus on the results a company aims to achieve.  Step into new markets in 3 years’ time.  
Expand existing customer base. 
Build brand loyalty across key markets. 
Strategic Objectives Specific, measurable targets that support the accomplishment of strategic goals.  
They are set on the long term but break down the broader vision into specific plans and projects. 
Strategic objectives are more concrete and actionable than strategic goals.  
They define clear, quantifiable outcomes that the organization aims to reach. 
Increasing market share by a certain percentage. 
improving customer retention rates.  
launching a new product line within a specified timeframe. 
Strategic Initiatives  Specific projects, programs, or actions undertaken to achieve strategic objectives and, ultimately, strategic goals.  Time-bound, require dedicated resources and budgets, and collaboration between different business areas of the organization.  Developing a new marketing campaign to target a specific customer segment. 
Investing in research and development to innovate new products.  
Restructuring internal processes to improve efficiency. 

What Are Examples of Strategic Initiatives?

As examples of strategic initiatives, a wide range of organization types, functions, markets, and people can be used. This is an example list of strategic initiatives.

  • Create a social media campaign to increase brand awareness.
  • Merge or acquire a critical raw material supplier.
  • Reduce outsourcing by launching a strategy.
  • Increase the number of retail outlets that serve customers.
  • Increase online product and service offerings.
  • Actively pursue low-cost production as a top strategic priority.
  • Reduce labor costs or improve quality by implementing an automated production system.
  • Develop leadership talent aggressively to support expansion plans.
  • Develop the next generation of products set out on a research effort.
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Mila Chervenkova

Mila Chervenkova

Marketing Expert | Agile, Kanban & OKR Practitioner

Mila is a seasoned marketing professional with a rich background in product marketing, content creation, and website optimization. Years of Practicing Kanban, Agile, and OKR practices have made her an expert in creating powerful productivity habits.