How To Outline Your Strategic Plan


A strategic plan is a description of where you want your organization to be in the future and how you’re going get there. It provides organizations with a sense of direction and gets everyone in the organization headed that way. American organizations—both nonprofit and for-profit—often look between three and five years out in regard to their strategic plan.

But in order to create a helpful and usable strategic plan template, you need to have a solid working outline. Below, we’ve provided the three most important parts of that outline as well as four steps to take to integrate the strategic plan once it’s complete.

Nine out of 10 organizations fail to execute strategy. Avoid failure with this free toolkit.

A 3-Part Strategic Plan Outline

1. Create a vivid description of what your “final destination” is.

To create an overall vision, some organizations start by holding a brainstorming session in which they “imagine a world” where:

  • Their organization is dominating the industry.
  • They’ve tripled in size.
  • They’ve introduced a number of new products.
  • The general population they cater to relies on their solution to a particular problem.

Once you’ve gathered your ideas from a brainstorming session like this, consolidate those ideas into a one- or two-sentence vision statement or purpose statement.

2. Determine the steps you’ll take to achieve your vision.

To determine how you’ll achieve your overall vision, you’ll need to break it down into goals—often called “objectives.” Objectives can often be divided into logical groups.

For example, if you’re a municipality, your objectives could be divided into key program areas like safety, transportation, and public works. If you’re a nonprofit or for-profit business, your objectives might be grouped into the four Balanced Scorecard perspectives or the perspectives for whichever strategic planning model you’ve selected. Ideally, all of your goals will link together so they’re contributing somehow to your vision collectively.

3. Determine how you’ll achieve your goals or objectives.

3A. For-Profit Organizations

Many for-profit strategic plan examples focus next on their measures or key performance indicators, which help an organization understand whether or not they’re meeting their goals. If your organization sets measures, you’ll also set targets for those measures that help express levels of performance.

See Also: How To Set KPI Targets

3B. Nonprofits & Municipal Organizations

Organizations that feel less ownership of the target itself—like nonprofits and municipalities—will focus next on linking activities or “projects” to their objectives. For example, a municipality or school may not want to set a target for school attendance, park visitors, or for how many people will go to the library in a particular time period. But they will want to talk about all the activities they need to do to improve their city, like:

  • Investing in new pieces of software.
  • Investing in infrastructure.
  • Redesigning certain processes.
  • Doing any of these things more efficiently or effectively.

All of these key activities that are linked to your strategic objectives can help you meet your overall strategic plan.

Implementing Your Strategic Plan, Step-By-Step

1. Get buy-in from across your organization regarding the details of your strategic plan.  

Which person (or department) should be held accountable for these goals? You want that person (or those people) to write anywhere from three sentences to three paragraphs describing what each objective means, why it’s important, and how you’re going to accomplish it. You can then spread this throughout your organization.

2. If you’re taking the measure-centric approach, build out the details of each measure.

This may include:

  • Who owns the measure.
  • The source of the data.
  • The formula.
  • How you will gather the data.
  • The target, broken down over time.

3. If you’re taking a project-centric approach, put some “meat on the bones” of your strategic plan outline.

This may include:

  • Who’s responsible for those contracts.
  • Details regarding your business plans.
  • Details regarding your budgets.
  • Details regarding timelines or key milestones along the way.

4. Make sure there’s consistency across the entire strategic plan.

This is something one individual in the strategy or finance office may be in charge of. This individual would read the whole strategic plan outline and ensure that you have the same level of detail in each section and then communicate the plan going forward.

Remember…

Creating an inspiring strategic plan is great—but there are a lot of nice strategic plan outlines out there that were created and now sit on a shelf

Your strategic plan template has to be something that the leadership team fully understands and takes ownership of. So even if the buy-in takes a great deal of time—even 2-3 times longer than if you’d tried to do it without buy-in—don’t underestimate its importance. Once you have the leadership on board, your strategic plan will be something everyone can understand and execute on regularly.  [hs_action id=”6173″]