Effective strategic planning provides the roadmap for success in any organization - keeping the organization focused and on course to achieve its mission and vision.
Strategic plans typically span three to five years with measurable objectives for the first one to two years. A strategic, long-range plan should have a "rolling base" meaning that the plan should be updated annually to evaluate progress and close off completed actions.
The strategic plan is the guide by which the annual plan of work, annual budget and committee work is developed. The goals of the strategic plan provide a framework for focus during an annual plan. Annual plans are part of the strategic plan and serve as a measurement on the progress of the strategic plan.
Areas to focus on when developing a Strategic Plan:
- Strategic planning is not a prediction of the future. It is a plan based on current information. Things will change in the future, and the plan can adapt.
- Strategic planning is a vehicle for informed decision making. The goal is to establish a well-informed framework from which leaders can work.
- Strategic planning is systematic, and needs to be structured. It raises a sequence of questions that helps the committee examine history, test assumptions, gather new information, and decide how best to respond going forward.
- Open communication about the information collected during the process and people’s informed opinions is critical to creating a plan the organization can utilize. It should take into account information from all stakeholders, and engage them in the process to identify priorities.
- Strategic planning guides the acquisition and allocation of resources. The purpose is to recognize what needs to be done to accomplish the organization’s mission.
Creating and maintaining a strategic plan requires several steps. Below are 6 steps that can be used as a guide:
Step 1 – Assess Readiness
The leadership of the organization must be committed to leading the organization strategically based on members’ needs and environmental issues, rather than personal goals.
Assess the readiness and knowledge of the current executive committee or board about moving the organization forward strategically. The “Strategic Readiness Assessment Tool” can be utilized to assist in this process. This tool will provide guidelines in determining if a facilitator is needed for assisting with the plan.
Step 2 – Develop a Committee and Select a Facilitator
Designating a strategic planning task force or committee is beneficial in ensuring the process is completed and utilized. The strategic planning committee should include representation from the executive committee or board.
Designate time and resources for an annual planning meeting or retreat to review the current status of the strategic plan and develop an annual plan of work.
- Identify members of the strategic planning committee.
- Identify a project manager for completing and updating the strategic plan.
- Identify if the committee will meet virtually or in person.
Step 3 – Environmental Analysis
An environmental analysis is an important component of developing or updating a strategic plan. The depth of environmental scans and surveys will depend on the stage of the current plan. The analysis should answer questions such as:
- Where is the profession headed in the future? What are the trends?
- Are there local or national events that will affect the profession?
- What are past issues that have impacted the organization?
- Has the component conducted a member survey recently? What is the member feedback?
- Who are the organization's stakeholders? (ie, members, non-members, sponsors)
- What is the financial state of the organization? (ie, how much money is in reserves, what is the operating budget, what are the previous year's revenue and expenses)
- What does the organization do well and where can it improve?
Step 4 – Develop Strategy
Developing a strategy uses the information gathered in the environmental analysis and combines that with the mission, vision, and values of the organization. This step takes an internal look at the organization and begins to form the direction the organization will take. Depending on where the organization is in the process of creating or updating the strategic plan, this step may be a review, revision or reflection on the current priorities of the organization. The following questions should be considered:
- What is the mission statement?
- What is the organization's vision?
- What are the core values?
- What is the competitive advantage that makes the organization unique? (member benefits)
Step 5 – Create Goals, Objectives, and Tactics
This step involves finalizing decisions, ensuring alignment, and making a written place to present to the board. Goals are general statements about what the organization needs to accomplish to fulfill the mission and vision. They evolve and are validated by the vision. Goals should be reflective of the organization's capability and services. Objectives are developed for each goal providing a quantifiable, measurable guideline when assessing the outcome of the goal.
When developing goals for the organization, it is important to ask:
- What are the expenses associated with the goal? Can money be allocated in the budget?
- What is the start date/end date of the goal?
- Who is the owner of the goal?
- How will you measure the success? (ie. attendance number, or revenue generation)
The strategic plan can be documented in multiple forms depending on the preference of the component. Below are two templates that can be used:
- Strategic Plan Template (Word version)
- Strategic Plan Project Management Tracker Template (Excel version)
Additional tracking may be needed to track the timeline of a specific tactic and actions. Access a timeline template.
Step 6 – Manage Your Plan
The strategic planning process is not complete until the information is organized, documented, and communicated. The plan needs to be distributed to all executive committee or board members and committee chairs. This is a working document and needs to be used as a guide in developing and executing the annual plan of work.