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What Are the Key Elements of a Strategic Plan?

Companies and managers benefit from having a strategic plan. The process of developing a strategic plan allows owners and managers to examine why the organization exists, where the organization should go, and how to get there. It sets forth the basic template for day-to-day operations that allows everyone to work toward fulfilling the organization's vision, mission, and goals.

Vision Statement and Mission Statement

Mission and vision statements are essential elements of effective strategic planning. These elements of a strategic plan give each employee a firm grasp of what you want your organization to be and the guiding principles you intend as a foundation for your day-to-day operations.

These statements also articulate what beneficial cause you are taking up with regard to your customers/members/clients/benefactors, and so they should speak to this group as well.

Your vision statement describes how you envision an ideal future-state for those you serve – how that future would look if you can solve the problem(s) you are tackling as an organization. It includes the ideal dream of what you want your organization to accomplish in a perfect world. Your vision statement is typically backed by the story of the inspiration for the creation of your organization.

Your mission statement spells out what your organization does to support achieving the vision you’ve set. It is more tactical and speaks to the uniqueness of your operation. The mission statement tells customers, clients, investors, and other parties what products or services your organization offers and your target demographic.

Intelligence Gathering

There are many methods for completing internal and external analyses, and the ones you will use depend on the type and size of your organization. There are no bad tools as long as they work efficiently and are fit for your purpose.

A SWOT analysis is a common tool used to review the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for your organization. A good strategic plan includes an in-depth analysis of elements both internal and external that can give your organization a competitive edge in the marketplace.

A SWOT is a good place to start, but it is just one tool so consider others that will help you deep-dive into the information you need such as capacity assessments (people, systems, infrastructure), capability agendas (mapping out what you can do versus what your customers will demand over time) and mission critical analysis (determining the most vital functions in your organization required for achieving strategic targets) for starters.

While there is little point in dwelling on past mistakes and failures, it is of considerable value to determine the root cause of those issues so you can ensure they don’t happen again. It is easy to abandon from consideration any prior plan and related goals that may or may not have been achieved but resist the temptation to sidestep this information. Take a good look at what worked, what didn’t and then carry that into your next planning session.

Strategic Initiatives

Once your Vision and Mission are set and you’ve got plenty of business Intelligence at your fingertips, then you are ready to begin planning. Your plan should spell out 3 to 5 high-level strategic initiatives for what you want to achieve within the next 3 to 5 years. Initiatives are different than goals and objectives. Initiatives are broader and speak to how you expect to move towards your vision .

Ideally, strategic initiatives should focus on achieving your organization’s purpose, targets for key growth during the planning cycle, and resilience requirements to ensure that your organization can survive a long haul.

Goals & Objectives

Whether you call them goals or objectives, this next layer captures the specifics of what your organization plans to achieve within certain timeframes. They will include short-term goals (one-year) as well as long-term goals that may span the full plan cycle. Goals and objectives need to be measurable, achievable and time-bound.

During the planning process for setting your goals, you want to define what success looks like for your organization. This is often overlooked, and creates confusion down the road when expectations of all involved are not aligned. Clearly stating your objectives allows you to set goals that support and promote your vision and mission.

Action Plans & Tactics

Action plans do not need to have too much detail because that could limit individuals' flexibility, but they should reflect basic tactics that explain how the work will be approached. Your action plan should provide enough details to define elements of the plan each individual is responsible for and a framework for creating a plan to achieve the organization goals.

Measurement System & Accountability

You need a system for tracking goals and objectives that is based on regular review of meaningful and relevant metrics. Having measurable goals and objectives is not productive if you do not have a system of measuring your progress and holding individuals accountable for their action plans. It is also not productive to be so married to a plan that customer feedback, market change and industry shifts fall on deaf ears. Be sure to review not just your plan but these elements of change on a regular basis so you can adapt when needed.

Individuals need to assume responsibility for tasks and duties necessary to reach each goal. Holding individuals accountable for the elements of the action plan they are responsible for gives them a sense of purpose and investment in the organization's success. Just make sure to value the uniqueness that each person brings to your organization and be open to what they have to offer.

Our Essential Strategy approach and supporting toolkit of knowledge empowers our clients to take control of these critical processes so that they support – not slow down – the business of achieving goals and delivering on mission. Explore what we have to offer at

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