Strategic planning provides focus and clarity to guide an organization to a successful future.
Strategic planning is a management tool. Its purpose is to help an organization do a better job - to focus its energy, to ensure that members of the organization are working toward the same goals, to assess and adjust the organization's direction in response to a changing environment. In short, “strategic planning is a disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does and why it does it, with a focus on the future”. (John Bryson, Strategic Planning in Public and Nonprofit Organizations, 3rd edition, Jossey-Bass, 2004,p.6)
The process to create the strategic plan, along with the written document, greatly helps to clarify the organization’s plans and ensure that key leaders are aligned. The planning process should be designed to encourage an evolving organizational attitude of strategic thinking and discussion as opposed to a finished document. The format of the plan should be concise, easily accessible and simple to update.
Every organization’s strategic plan will be different in format and content based upon the organization’s lifecycle stage, its cultural norms and its needs.
In order to reach appropriate conclusions in your strategic plan, you must take the time to get data to inform your decisions. Below is a sampling of some of the areas in which you should investigate:
|Mission||Is it still relevant? What is the organization’s purpose and for whom does it serve this purpose? All information to come is reviewed in the context of the mission.|
|Needs assessment||What are the community needs? Who is the audience or client base?|
|Critical issues/internal assessment||What are the critical issues the organization is currently facing that the plan must address?|
|Market research||What other organizations are in the same marketplace and what are they offering? What is the organization’s unique competency?|
|Data||Hard Data vs. Soft data: Hard data examples include results from current processes, quantitative survey data, census data, data pulled from reports and research documents. Soft data examples include informal questions, focus groups or qualitative survey data,|
|Competitive analysis/external review||What is the external climate in which the organization is operating? What are the opportunities and the challenges?|
|Gap analysis||Where does this organization stack up against the internal and external assessment?|
|How will the organization support the goals and objectives for the initial year?|
|Strategies, tactics and objectives||Successful implementation will be more likely if your team creates an implementation plan with dates, responsible parties, objectives and outcome measures. You also increase your chances for success if elements of the plan are incorporated into performance appraisals, board meeting agendas and executive director updates to the board.|