Think Leadership Ideas

One Page Way

Any endeavor that involves the work of more than one person requires some form of management to align people’s efforts. In short, you have to get everyone on the same page. One of the best tools for getting people on the same page is literally doing so - get your strategic plan refined to a single page.
Whatever the industry, size, or sector of the organization, there are immense benefits for establishing clear strategic objectives for the organization, and organizing these on a single-page easily understood document.

Triggers for One Page Plans
Driving motivations for creating a one page plans are varied, as are the kinds of organizations that choose to do so:
  • A business owner wonders how the wholesale and retail divisions of his business could find better synergies;
  • A CEO seeks to build a leadership team from a group of department heads practiced in maintaining their “silos;”
  • The board of a fast growing non-profit struggles to prioritize a list 38 major projects underway, not to mention dozens of minor ones - all of which feel important;
  • The owner of a family business, highly successful for over a decade, realizes the principles he uses to run the business have never been written down - and seeks a way for these principles to be transferred to the next generation of leaders;
  • As a business grows from a handful of employees to dozens, the company management recognizes they need tools for rethinking their roles and how they manage the organization.
Regardless of the triggering motivation, most leaders can immediately see the value of a document that is concise, easily understood, and communicates expectations that can be translated into focused action.

What one-page plans should minimally include

One page plans, documents, or maps can be constructed in many forms (see below), but regardless of the model used there are four elements that are essential to articulate - purpose, customer results, key actions, and strategy.
  • Purpose - Why does the organization exist? (Often expressed as mission and vision.)
  • Results - Who are the customers, and what value or benefits do they receive?
  • Actions - What do we need to do?
  • Strategy - What is the distinctive way we deliver value to our customers? What gets us from where we are to where we want to be?
Further, clearly articulated actions and results will inform about what an organization should measure.

One Page Plan Models
There are numerous models for one page plans - following are a few well-known ones:
  • One Page Business Plan® - a a simple format created by Jim Horan. While this model appears on the surface most applicable for small businesses and professional practices, large corporations will also find it highly beneficial, according to Ron Wilder of Aligned Action Inc., a certified practitioner in the model. An expert in business plans, Wilder offers a useful version called a one-page “annual operating” plan - noting that for some the phrase “business plan” connotes something only used when approaching bankers for money, whereas “operating plan” reinforces something that informs what action should be taken every day.
  • Gazelles One Page Plan - developed by Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, this robust model is especially valuable for rapidly growing mid-sized businesses of 30 or more employees.
  • Strategy Maps - Strat-maps evolved from the Balanced Scorecard model developed by Robert Kaplan and Daivid Norton of the Harvard Business School. Strategy Maps are especially relevant where the “intangibles” of an organization - e.g. specialized knowledge or company culture - are instrumental to an organization’s identity and success.
Strategy Maps link the intangible qualities of a company to operational, financial, and customer objectives, together forming a coherent strategy. Strategy Maps are highly versatile, and can be adopted for businesses, non-profits, and public entities of all sizes. (article on how Hillsborough uses Strategy Maps)
One of the most common errors that organizations make in creating a strategic plan - whether the document is one page or fills a think binder - is failing to go beyond a list of goals. The items on their lists are important, there is little indication how one goal links to another. Since they aren’t linked to anything else, some goals are easy to set aside and never be converted to action. Strategy Maps and the other one page plan models, if done well, provide a more wholistic approach by linking goals, actions, and results into a coherent strategy that informs everyone about the part they play.

How organizations use one page plans
  • Strategy Development - the process of creating a plan provides an opportunity for an organization’s leaders to discuss complex goals, initiatives, and operations and align these into a strategy;
  • Organizational “DNA” - a well-crafted one page document can serve as the master from which more detailed action plans and unit specific operational plans are created;
  • Performance Management - a way a one page plan can serve as tool for aligning job descriptions and performance management systems with organizational goals;
  • Tactical Decision Making - it is easy to keep one page in front of people to use as a filter for considering options when making management decisions;
  • Stakeholder Communication - a one page document that is intuitively easy to understand is an exceptional tool for communicating what’s important to the organization - whether to employees, suppliers, funders, customers, bankers, in short, anyone who is a stakeholder.

Simplicity, clarity, and focus all contribute immensely to an organization’s success. A one page strategic plan that captures the essence of an company, in the hands of talented leaders, becomes an exceptional tool to foster simple, clear, and focused effort - and thereby create and sustain an exceptional organization.

by Tom Stevens (c)2009
Tom Stevens helps leaders create and sustain exceptional organizations. To contact him, visit or call 800 727-9788

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Get on the Same Page with a Strat-Map - THINK! leadership article

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