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What Is A Strategic Plan? 6 Essential Steps
You can be one of the few organizations that achieves your goals—use these strategic planning steps to make it happen!
Mistakes early on in your strategic plan can have major negative impacts and consequences later. You could need to redo your plan after eighteen months, lose staff buy-in, or fail to implement the strategic plan altogether. You don't want to be left asking yourself, "What is a strategic plan really, and is ours any good?" months after you've implemented one.
To help you avoid that fate, we’ve outlined six strategic planning steps below that will keep you on the right track for the long term.
Looking for more guidance on how to do strategic planning step by step? Download our free templates to get started.
6 Strategic Planning Steps To Follow
1. Confirm (or create) your mission and vision statements.
Mission and vision statements provide important context for your future plans. Before you go any further, take the time to develop these statements, or take a critical look at your current iterations to make sure they’re still relevant. As a reminder:
- A mission statement defines why your business exists and why it’s important, including the problems you aim to solve with your product or service.
- A vision statement declares where your organization wants to be three to five years in the future.
Your mission and vision statements will serve as a compass as you develop your strategy, keeping you on track to make decisions that will get you where you want to go.
2. Choose a framework.
Strategy implementation is a major undertaking with lots of moving parts; that’s where strategy planning frameworks come in handy. Lots of different frameworks exist, and their approaches to strategy execution vary. But they all help you build a concrete path toward your goals and stay focused on achieving them.
For example, the Balanced Scorecard framework (our personal favorite) lets you chart a path to your goals based on more than just financial performance—it incorporates other elements that drive strategy, too. (It’s also readily adaptable to nonprofits and government organizations.) Choose the framework that applies most to your organization’s way of thinking.
3. Identify your priorities.
You won’t be able to accomplish everything at once. Think about which goals will actually help you achieve your vision. (For example, if your vision has to do with becoming an industry leader, increasing your annual revenue might be a relevant goal.) Choose a few priorities to focus on; these can be called “strategic priorities,” “goals,” or “objectives.” They make up the key components of your strategy at the highest level.
4. Develop measures and initiatives.
Measures help you understand if you’re meeting your goals, and initiatives (also called projects) are the action programs you develop to achieve your objectives. No matter what framework you’re using, you’ll need to define all these elements in order to translate your vision into an actionable strategy.
5. Build a rollout plan.
How you communicate and roll out your strategic plan is one of the most important elements of the plan itself, but it is often overlooked. We recommend creating a written plan outlining your communication strategy that describes how you’ll:
- Educate employees about the strategy (and their role in it)
- Generate enthusiasm and engagement around the plan
- Communicate your strategy with external parties—board members, partners, or customers
- Disseminate quarterly performance results in a timely way to keep the momentum going
6. Review and make changes.
Once your strategy is launched, it’s important to hold regular performance reviews and refine the plan accordingly. These reviews should be at least once a quarter, and possibly monthly, depending on your organization and industry.
If you don’t know where to begin when it comes to conducting a meeting to review your strategic plan, here are some suggestions to learn more about running an effective meeting and making your meeting great.
PRO TIP: Gather input every step of the way!
Your team of strategists might be driving this train, but you aren’t the only passengers! Your plan will be more realistic—and you’ll get better buy-in—when you involve other people in your decisions. All the strategic planning steps offer opportunities to open the lines of communication and engage people at all levels:
Don’t go it alone! Use available resources to improve your strategic planning process.
It can be lonely working in a corporate strategy office—out of 4,000 employees, you might be one of three, trying your best to chart a path forward for everyone! (Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to talk to the three people working in strategy in the next building over?)
We can’t promise you’ll meet the folks next door, but there are opportunities for strategy professionals from across the country to connect. At ClearPoint, we’ve developed an awesome community of people who work in strategy and are happy to share their ideas. ClearPoint Community members attend in-person and virtual events to learn from one another, getting insights on how other teams are tracking and reporting on their organizations’ strategies. Outside of ClearPoint, there are also a variety of LinkedIn groups for people who work in strategy—joining one of them is a great way to start upping your strategy game.
You might not get your strategic plan right the first time, and that’s okay. Just get started and learn while you're at it. Following the six strategic planning steps above is a good start, and will help you avoid some rookie mistakes in the meantime!