We make the comment on our website that “an organization without a Strategic Plan is merely running around putting out fires every day”. While possibly somewhat of an exaggeration, it’s really more accurate than you might think.
Strategic Planning (SP) is defined as “The science of defining and using resources to accomplish a specific purpose”. That seems pretty simple! The reality is, that for an organization to move to a Strategic Plan environment it will require outside professional assistance, commitment of a planning team and a fair amount of time to initially get the plan and all of its tentacles established.
The Planning Team (PT) needs to be made up of three or four people from your Board, your top level operational leadership team (probably three or four) and an outside professional to facilitate and help guide you through the process.
The PT must initially define or visit and redefine in writing the following aspects of your business:
The purpose for which the organization exists (Mission Statement)
A sense for the ideal future of the organization (Vision Statement)
The tenets which are important to and serve as enduring principles which guide the conduct of those who are part of the organization (Core Values).
The Mission Statement and Vision Statements should be kept short and very definitive – two or three sentences. The Core Values of your organization will probably require a much broader listing of those things expected of those employed by the organization which will also guide how you do business.
Once this is complete the PT must take on the job of SWOT analysis of the organization and the market it operates in. The term SWOT is defined as follows:
S = Strength -- Those elements of the organization that make it effective in the accomplishment of its mission/vision and fulfillment of its operational mandates.
W = Weaknesses -- Those elements of the organization which may hinder it from effectively accomplishing its mission/vision and fulfillment of its operational mandates.
O = Opportunity -- A combination of external and/or internal factors and/or circumstances which could affect the organization in a favorable manner.
T = Threats -- A combination of external and/or internal factors and/or circumstances which could affect the organization in an unfavorable manner.
The outcome of the SWOT analysis will be the primary driver as the PT then goes about establishing the Strategic Initiatives (SI’s). These will propel the organization in the direction of fulfilling the Vision Statement of the organization within the context of the purpose for which it exists and the values by which it operates. As a rule of thumb you will probably only want to establish four to six of these, from an organization capacity standpoint.
The Strategic Initiatives will then be followed by Action Plans (AP’s) to accomplish the SI’s with assigned responsibility. The planning horizon for the AP’s should be no more than three years. In our opinion it’s virtually impossible to predict your business future accurately beyond a three year horizon.
"In our opinion it’s virtually impossible to predict your business future accurately beyond a three year horizon."
The PT will review and report to the Board every six months on the SP status along with any impediments that have been encountered on the AP’s and what is being done to overcome them. In this way the document becomes a living document that is driving the organization. Each year a new year is added to the planning horizon.
What I have done here is to provide you with a very abbreviated outline for a very encompassing scientific business process. The SP will allow your organization to stay on goal while at the same time staying flexible enough to respond to the daily emergencies and requirements.
The SP will drive your staffing, your financial planning process and even departmental and individual goals. It gets your whole organization pulling in the same direction which usually translates into great results.