De-Mystifying Strategic Planning

Three Basic Steps to Developing a Strategic Plan

Strategic planning seems overly complex to many people. There are many different methodologies to choose from in approaching the strategic planning process. But there are basic steps involved in all strategic planning processes, and understanding those steps will help leaders in de-mystifying strategic planning.

strategic planning

Many organizations don’t take the time to do strategic planning because they don’t understand it. Because it sounds more complex than it really is.

Here are the basic three steps to understanding and de-mystifying strategic planning.


1. Determine where you are


Each organization has its unique set of stakeholders, influencers, and customers who must be involved for the plan to be successful.

It’s important to gauge their perspective about what you have going for you and what you have going against you—both internally and externally. That can be determined by conducting a SWOT analysis.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Assessing your strengths and weaknesses determines your current internal environment, while assessing your opportunities and threats determines your future external environment. Also, your strengths and opportunities identify what you have going for you, while your weaknesses and threats identify what you have going against you. Combined together, these four categories provide a good picture of current vs. future, internal vs. external, and assets vs. liabilities.

The different parties identified below could be grouped differently. But the important point is that you involve each of these groups in your organization’s future in some way. And you may find that these different parties may need to be involved in different ways.

a. Stakeholders

The term stakeholders can mean many things to many people. It can be loosely defined as anyone who has a stake in your course of action. If looked at narrowly, that would include only your board and your executive leadership team; however this group could be defined more broadly.

b. Influencers

The term influencers can mean many things to many people. It can be broadly defined as anyone who has any influence on the outcomes of your organization. Within a narrow perspective, influencers could include only your investors and your suppliers; however this group could defined more broadly as well.

c. Customers

The term customers can mean many things to many different people. It can be defined as anyone you have to satisfy to achieve your desired ends. The traditional definition is anyone who would purchase your products or services. But you could also include your employees and community.

You could rearrange the definitions of these three groups. But the point is that you must have an understanding of the degree to which you want to involve each of these groups in your strategic planning.


2. Determine where you are going


Creating your strategic plan involved a multi-layered approach, much like a pyramid. Each builds upon the other. The information gleaned from your stakeholders, influencers, and customers will then color the direction in which you proceed. But the strategic plan itself will be composed of the following items below.

a. Fundamentals

In order for you to know where you are going, you must first understand your basic fundamentals: who you serve, what you do, how you do what you do, and why you do what you do. In other words, your vision will be influenced by your broadly defined customer, your mission statement, your organization values, and your purpose statement.

b. Priorities

Based on the results of your SWOT analysis and your basic fundamentals, priorities will emerge. Your organization DNA and your situational analysis will point you in the direction of priorities for your organization to pursue. (If you get stuck here, an experienced facilitator can help your organization draw these conclusions.)

c. Goals

Based on your priorities, you can create organization-wide SMART goals that will help you address your priorities. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Goals with these attributes are more likely to be accomplished than those that are not. From there you can craft department objectives and specific strategies and tactics, depending on how deep you want to drill down in your strategic plan.


3. Assess your progress


Finalizing your plan is just the beginning. The real work begins when the planning is done. At that point, it becomes incumbent on you to make sure that the plan comes to fruition. It is imperative that you have performance metrics in place to help you move forward.

a. On time

Including time-based markers in your strategic plan will help you develop the discipline to complete the plan—but only if you monitor the plan and assess your progress. Within the timeframe of your particular plan, it will behoove you to keep focused on the timely completion of your goals, objectives and strategies.

b. On budget

Developing associated costs for each component of the plan will help you keep the plan on budget—but only if it is regularly monitored. Someone has to be focused on making sure that the budgetary items are tracked.

c. On task

Strategic plans can be amazing tools for explosive growth if used well. But they can become expensive doorstops if they are not consistently tracked. They can’t be put on the shelf. They must be monitored—because they won’t monitor themselves.

If you implement these three steps as you progress through your planning process, you will find that de-mystifying strategic planning is not so big a task after all.


Did you know …

I am an experienced facilitator who can help navigate you through the process of strategic planning and guide you through the successful completion of your plan.

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