What Is A Strategic Plan? 6 Essential Steps

The expert at anything was once a beginner, but when it comes to creating and implementing a strategic plan, you’ll want to make sure the "beginner" stage is as short as possible.

Joseph, Director of Customer Success at ClearPoint, has over 10 years of experience working with customers to create efficient performance management and strategy execution processes.

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.

Well, we do not want that to happen to you, so here are six essential step you'll need to take in developing your strategic plan:

1. Identify your core mission

Take the time to develop a mission statement, or take a critical look at your current statement. Treat writing your mission statement like you would treat writing a book. Work through multiple drafts with your team. Have outsiders read it for you and tell you what they interpret it to mean.

Your mission statement is the foundation of your strategic plan. It tells everyone in your organization: “This is what we do.” You will want to succinctly describe what your organization does, provide insight into the value you create, and capture the essence of your company.

2. Have a future-focused vision statement

Your strategic plan will be your roadmap to where you want to go. However, much like using GPS Navigation, you have to enter your destination. Your vision statement should be that destination.

Think ahead three to five years, or the length of your strategic plan, and write a quick paragraph about where you want to be. You can have members of your team each write a paragraph. From those different paragraphs, pull out the elements you want to include in your destination and tighten it up into a clear concise sentence to be shared.

3. Identify priorities

Use your mission and vision statements to focus your organization. Do not merely find out what is important because as you speak with others in your organization, you will soon find out that everything is “important”. Okay, maybe that is the case, but drill down to find out the priorities.

Priorities are the issues so critical to your organization that they require the entire management team’s attention. These are the issues your strategic plan should focus on. Avoid being distracted by anything else.

4. Build a communication or rollout plan

How you will communicate and rollout your strategic plan is one of the most important elements of the plan itself, but it is often overlooked. You need to make sure all your employees understand how they fit into the strategic plan and how the work they do contributes to it. Figure out the best way to explain that. If you do not get employee buy-in, you might find yourself facing a major uphill battle.

Consider posting flyers, maps, some high-level visuals, hosting “town hall” meetings. Make it visual and be creative. If you are looking for ideas, take a look at these resources on communicating strategy, the importance of effective communication, and getting buy-in from your staff.

5. Hold people accountable

You are going on a road trip. Plans are made, you know where you want to drive to, and all your bags are packed. Yet, you are still sitting in the driveway because you never told someone they are driving. Your strategic plan is not complete until you assign owners and responsibility.

Make sure you assign responsibility to an individual. Saying this component belongs to the finance department is a good step, but it does not go far enough. Instead, say the component belongs to Jeff from finance. If there is a question about an objective, measure, or initiative, we know to turn to Jeff. He owns it. We’re going on the road trip now, and Jeff is driving.

6. Review, review, review

The strategic planning process is not over. It should never end as a strategic plan should be a dynamic, living document. To ensure performance, you need to hold regular formal reviews and refine accordingly. These reviews should be at least once a quarter and possibly monthly depending on your organization and your industry.

If you do not 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.

You might not get your strategic plan right the first time, and that is okay. It is important to start the process and learn while you're at it. If you correctly implement the six suggestions above, congratulations!––you've just avoided some major rookie mistakes while building your strategic plan.

What Is A Strategic Plan? 6 Essential Steps