Strategic Planning Revealed

Strategic planning is the act of creating specific ways and means to define and accomplish the vision of an organization. The end results of a strategic planning process may, however, be more valuable than the plan itself because it forces leaders to systematically think about the organization. Your strategic planning must be in line with your organizational purpose

There are many different forms and methods of strategic planning. There are no exactly right processes; your way of creating your plan should address the specific needs and circumstances of your organization. Beware of anyone who offers you a set model. 

It is important to come to an understanding of certain terms used in the process. These include vision, Mission, Goals, and Objectives. They are often used interchangeably without a clear understanding of the differences. The following explanation can help: 

  • You SEE a Vision (a verbal image of what we ultimately want to achieve)
  • You HAVE a Mission (your business purpose and market sector)
  • You BELIEVE in Values (your moral compass and expected behavior)
  • You PURSUE Goals (the results we choose to accomplish)
  • You ACHIEVE Objectives (measurable targets along the path to our goals)

 Organizational purpose comes from a shared view of our vision, mission, and values. Satisfying customers requires that you understand their needs, know your own processes, and then set goals and objectives to drive and evaluate your actions. 

A vision statement is created as a compelling verbal image and forms a mental picture of the future. It should define what we seek to become as an organization yet describe something that is realistic. The vision should generate human energy and engagement. In other words, it should provide direction and focus for the organization. To develop a vision statement, ask yourself these questions: 

  • What is your dream or vision of the future?
  • What is the loftiest picture you can imagine?

 Your mission is the business reason for your organization’s existence. It is an element of the charter. It doesn’t describe a specific outcome and contains no time limit or measurement. The mission statement provides the basis for setting your goals and is used to allocate resources. 

A typical mission statement format might be: To provide (product) to (customers) for (reason) in (marketplace). To define your mission, begin by describing why your organization exists. Identify your scope of products and services. Identify your customers and the audience for your offers. Then, write a brief and succinct mission statement. 

Values are the beliefs behind your vision and mission. A worthy vision is guided by worthy values. Values give dignity and direction to your mission. They are the moral compass and expected behaviors during your vision quest. A values statement may include elements like:

  • Integrity in all our actions
  • Commitment to employees
  • Quality of our products
  • Protection of environment
  • Innovative business ideas
  • Continual learning

What do you hold dear and inviolate? What core values guide your activities? Express these values for an improved work environment and to allow the organization to prosper. 

Goals are conditions to be achieved in the future. They must be defined consistent with your vision, mission, and strategic directions. Goals guide your decisions and actions. However, they usually do not involve measurable results, and therefore, do not change as often as objectives. 

A strategy is a statement of your approach to achieving your goals. Your vision, mission, and values play an important role in developing your business strategy. They provide the framework for generating and screening strategic options. They provide an organizational identity and understanding of business directions. 

The business strategy can be viewed as how you will use your mission to achieve your vision. Strategies are critical to the success of an organization because this is where you begin outlining the plans and actions to accomplish your goals.  

Objectives are focused on critical issues and milestones. They describe the activities and targets to achieve your goals. They identify the dates for completing the activities. They are measurable in terms of being achieved, or not. For example, a general goal might be to reduce waste. The specific objective might be to reduce waste from 5% to 3% by the end of 2025. 

Conclusion Betsy Chaplin Taylor, FAHP offers an illustration to help us understand the creation of a strategic plan. She likens it to charting a course for a sailboat. It helps the organization navigate sometimes rough waters and reach its destination with purpose and efficiency. While the organization’s mission provides a constant North Star to guide navigation, the plan lays out the journey forward and aligns leaders, staff, and stakeholders with a shared vision.

This is a great illustration of the process because it reveals the fluid nature of strategic planning. Too often leaders think their strategic plan must be a set straight path. The reality is that it must be adjusted to the changing winds of time. Often slight adjustments are enough but occasionally, a major course correction is necessary due to currents below and the winds above. Always keep your eyes on the North Star!