How To Develop A Successful Strategic Plan

Mike Girdler

You’re 3 questions away from your strategic plan There’s no debating the positive impact of a solid strategic plan. It provides a clear map outlining …

You’re 3 questions away from your strategic plan

Strat Planning There’s no debating the positive impact of a solid strategic plan. It provides a clear map outlining where your organization’s going and how to get there. It focuses the entire organization’s resources – time, money and personnel, on achieving uniformly understood goals. But, how do you actually develop a strategic plan? The answer is in 3 questions!

Question # 1 – Where is the organization right now?

In answering this question, you and the strategic planning team members are evaluating your current position. Take a look at what’s happening internally and externally to get a “lay of the land” and see exactly where the organization stands.

To accomplish this focus on tools that will give you the information you need. Probably the most familiar tool is the SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The completion of a SWOT examines and assesses your people, processes, finances, customers and competition, and provides the strengths and opportunities you will focus on to guide the development of your goals and objectives. It also directs your focus on mitigating or removing weaknesses and threats. Other tools to assist in your organizational assessment are lessons learned, financial review, and an environmental or market assessment. These tools provide a clear picture of your organization’s current state and set you up for the rest of the strategic planning process.

Question # 2 – Where does the organization want to go?

This is typically the domain of the CEO and other senior executives. It’s here that the future for the organization is defined. A link between the organization’s vision and over-arching goals is established. But first, what is a goal? A goal is broad, general and a long-term direction. For example, “we want to be recognized by industry and media as global thought leaders in business efficiency”.

Set goals, between 4-6 of them, to define where the organization will be in the next 3-5 years, and beyond. To achieve this, focus on developing goals that impact financials, customers, internal processes, and personnel. The establishment of these over-arching goals set the stage moving forward and everything the organization does do will revolve around reaching these goals.

Question # 3 – How is the organization going to get there?

To answer this question you’ll need to set objectives, develop strategies and tactics. 

  • Objectives – these differ from goals as objectives are focused, measurable and time-specific. Strategic objectives are referred to as SMART objectives. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timed. These are more tactical and are designed to accomplish organizational goals. When developing objectives, ask yourself, “Does this objective lead to action that gets me to my goal.”
  • Develop strategies – You need to develop your game plans to reach your objectives. These are your strategies. To develop your strategies your team will examine each objective in light of the results of SWOT analysis, available organizational resources – personnel, finances, etc. and competition to devise the approach that will reach your objective.
  • Tactics – The final piece to answering the question, how is the organization going to get there is the development of the tactics and action steps to reach your objectives. This is where the rubber hits the road. It’s here that you and your team develop the step by step actions that your organization will undertake to reach its objectives. For example, develop a new promotional brochure.

By focusing on answering these 3 questions: where is the organization now, where do we want the organization to go, and how will the organization get there will put you on the right track to developing an effective, focused, successful strategic plan.


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Michael Girdler is a vice-president, CornerStone Dynamics Inc. His blogs focus on all things project management. Throughout Mike's career, he has invested deeply into projects involving sales, marketing, training and development, continuing education, and communications environments.

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