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How to Create a Strategic Plan
Looking for a way to take your company in a new and profitable direction? It starts with strategic planning. Keep reading to learn what a strategic plan is, why you need it and how you can strategically create one.
What Is a Strategic Plan?
When it comes to business and finance, strategic planning will help you allocate your resources, energy and assets. When implemented, a strategic plan will begin to move your operations in a more profitable direction. The primary goal of the plan is to ensure you and any other stakeholders are on the same page and striving to reach the same goal.
Creating a strategic plan requires a disciplined effort. Once you put the plan into action, it will influence the segment of customers that you target, how you serve those customers and the experience those customers have.
Assess the Current Infrastructure and Operations
The first step in creating a strategic plan is to carefully assess your existing infrastructure and operations. You can do this through a SWOT analysis, which is an analysis of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The goal here is to pinpoint the resources that you use to carry out your day-to-day operations, to look at your monthly revenue patterns, to list any company challenges related to the customer experience and, most importantly, to look at your marketing methods and ways to improve the overall customer experience.
Creation of Mission Statement and Objectives
The next step is to create a mission statement. You may already have one, but it’s important to note your mission at the top of the strategic plan document you create. This ensures everyone is focused on the same goal. Your mission statement should cover why you started the company and what you intend to accomplish through the products and services that you offer.
In addition to the mission statement, make sure to outline both short- and long-term objectives. List the objectives according to their priority and designate certain managers or employees to be responsible for each one. Also, jot down the resources that will be used to achieve each objective.
Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve and who is responsible for each goal, it’s time to deploy the plan and measure its progress. A weekly meeting is extremely important for all managers and stakeholders provide feedback. Your goal is to determine if the company is headed in the right direction. If not, you’ll need to revise the strategic plan accordingly.
Strategic Plans Are Ongoing
Once your strategic plan helps you achieve several objectives, it’s smart to regroup and set new objectives. As your company grows, you can set new goals to ensure the company keeps moving forward. You can share the success of your strategic plan with potential investors as a way to tap into new capital funding.
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How To Write A Strategic Plan That Gets Results + Examples
by Tom Wright, on Feb 28, 2023
Table of Contents
Are you feeling overwhelmed with the thought of writing a strategic plan for your business? Do you want to create a plan that will help you move your team forward with inspired alignment and disciplined execution? You're not alone.
Gone are the days of rigid, 5- or 10-year planning cycles that do not leave room for flexibility and innovation. To stay ahead of the curve, you need a dynamic and execution-ready strategic plan that can guide your business through the ever-evolving landscape.
At Cascade, we understand that writing a strategic plan can be dreadful, especially in today's unpredictable environment. That's why we've developed a simple model that can help you create a clear, actionable plan to achieve your organization's goals. With our tested and proven strategic planning template , you can write a strategic plan that is both adaptable and effective .
Whether you're a seasoned strategy professional or a fresh strategy planner, this guide will walk you through the process step-by-step on how to write a strategic plan. By the end, you'll have a comprehensive, easy-to-follow strategic plan that will help you align your organization on the path to success.
Follow this guide step-by-step or skip to the part you’re most interested in:
- Pre-Planning Phase: Build The Foundation
Cascade Model For Strategic Planning: What You Need To Know
- Key Elements of a Strategic Plan
How To Write A Strategic Plan In 6 Simple Steps
3 strategic plan examples to get you started, how to achieve organizational alignment with your strategic plan.
- Quick Overview of Key Steps In Writing A Strategic Plan
Create An Execution-Ready Strategic Plan With Cascade 🚀
*Editor’s note: This article is part of our ‘How to create a Strategy’ collection. At the end of this article, you’ll find a link to each piece within this collection so you can dig deeper into each element of an effective strategic plan and more related resources to master strategy execution.
Pre-Planning Phase: Build The Foundation
Before we dive into writing a strategic plan, it's essential to know the basics you should cover before the planning phase. The pre-planning phase is where you'll begin to gather the data and strategic insights necessary to create an effective strategic plan.
1. Run a strategic planning workshop
The first step is to run a strategic planning workshop with your team. Get your team in the room, get their data, and gather their insights. By running this workshop, you'll foster collaboration and bring fresh perspectives to the table. And that’s not all.
The process of co-creating and collaborating to put that plan together with stakeholders is one of the most critical factors in strategy execution . According to McKinsey’s research , initiatives in which employees contribute to development are 3.4 times more likely to be successful. They feel like the plan is a result of their efforts, and they feel ownership of it, so they're more likely to execute it.
💡 Tip: Use strategy frameworks to structure your strategy development sessions, such as GAP analysis , SWOT analysis , Porter’s Five Forces , Ansoff matrix , McKinsey 7S model , or GE matrix . You can even apply the risk matrix that will help you align and decide on key strategic priorities.
2. Choose your strategic planning model
Before creating your strategic plan, you need to decide which structure you will use. There are hundreds of ways to structure a strategic plan. You’ve likely heard of famous strategic models such as OKRs and the Balanced Scorecard .
But beyond the well-known ones, there's also a myriad of other strategic planning models ranging from the extremely simple to the absurdly complex.
Many strategic models work reasonably well on paper, but in reality, they don't show you how to write a strategic plan that fits your organization's needs.
Here are some common weaknesses most popular strategic models have:
- They're too complicated. People get lost in terminology rather than focus on execution.
- They don’t scale. They work well for small organizations but fail when you try to extend them across multiple teams.
- They're too rigid. They force people to add layers for the sake of adding layers.
- They're neither tangible nor measurable. They’re great at stating outcomes but lousy at helping you measure success.
- They're not adaptable. As we saw in the last years, the business environment can change quickly. Your model needs to be able to work in your current situation and adapt to changing economic landscapes.
Our goal in this article is to give you a simpler, more effective way to write a strategic plan. This is a tested and proven strategic planning model that has been refined over years of working with +20,000 teams around the world. We call it the Cascade Strategy Model.
This approach has proven to be more effective than any other model we have tried when it comes to executing and implementing the strategy .
It’s easy to use and it works for small businesses, fast-growing startups, as well as multinationals trying to figure out how to write a fail-proof strategic plan.
We’ve created a simple diagram below to illustrate what a strategic plan following the Cascade Model will look like when it's completed:
Rather than a traditional roadmap, imagine your strategy as a flowchart. Each row is a mandatory step before moving on to the next.
We call our paltform Cascade for a reason: strategy must cascade throughout an organization along with values, focus areas, and objectives.
Above all, the Cascade Model is intended to be execution-ready —in other words, it has been proven to deliver success far beyond strategic planning. It adds to a successful strategic management process .Key elements of a Strategic Plan
Key elements of a Strategic Plan
The key elements of a strategic plan include:
- Vision : Where do you want to get to?
- Values : How will you behave on the journey?
- Focus Areas : What are going to be your strategic priorities?
- Strategic objectives : What do you want to achieve?
- Actions and projects : How are you going to achieve the objectives?
- KPIs : How will you measure success?
In this part of the article, we will give you an overview of each element within the Cascade Model. You can follow this step-by-step process in a spreadsheet , or sign up to get instant access to a free Cascade strategic planning template and follow along as we cover the key elements of an effective strategic plan.
Your vision statement is your organization's anchor - it defines where you want to get to and is the executive summary of your organization's purpose. Without it, your strategic plan is like a boat without a rudder, at the mercy of strong winds and currents like Covid and global supply chain disruptions.
A good vision statement can help funnel your strategy towards long-term goals that matter the most to your organization, and everything you write in your plan from this point on will help you get closer to achieving your vision.
Trying to do too much at once is a surefire way to sink your strategic plan. By creating a clear and inspiring vision statement , you can avoid this trap and provide guidance and inspiration for your team. A great vision statement might even help attract talent and investment into your organization.
For example, a bike manufacturing company might have a vision statement like, “To be the premier bike manufacturer in the Pacific Northwest.” This statement clearly articulates the organization's goals and is a powerful motivator for the team.
In short, don't start your strategic plan without a clear vision statement. It will keep your organization focused and help you navigate toward success.
📚 Recommended read: How to Write a Vision Statement (With Examples, Tips, and Formulas)
Values are the enablers of your vision statement —they represent how your organization will behave as you work towards your strategic goals. Unfortunately, many companies throw around meaningless words just for the purpose of PR, leading to a loss of credibility.
To avoid this, make sure to integrate your organization’s core values into everyday operations and interactions. In today's highly-competitive world, it's crucial to remain steadfast in your values and cultivate an organizational culture that's transparent and trustworthy.
Companies with the best company cultures consistently outperform competitors and their average market by up to 115.6%, as reported by Glassdoor .
For example, a bike manufacturing company might have core values like:
These values reflect the organization's desire to become the leading bike manufacturer, while still being accountable to employees, customers, and shareholders.
👉 Here’s how to add vision and values to your strategic plan in Cascade:
After you sign up and invite your team members to collaborate on the plan, navigate to Plans and Teams > Teams page, and add the vision, mission and values. This will help you to ensure that the company’s vision, mission statement, and values are always at top of mind for everyone.
📚When you're ready to start creating some company values, check out our guide, How To Create Company Values .
3. Focus Areas
Your focus areas are the strategic priorities that will keep your team on track and working toward the company’s mission and vision. They represent the high-level areas that you need to focus on to achieve desired business outcomes.
In fact, companies with clearly defined priorities are more likely to achieve their objectives. According to a case study by the Harvard Business Review , teams that focus on a small number of key initiatives are more likely to succeed than those that try to do too much.
That’s also something that we usually recommend to our customers when they set up their strategic plan in Cascade. Rather than spreading your resources too thin over multiple focus areas, prioritize three to five.
Following our manufacturing example above, some good focus areas include:
- Aggressive growth
- Producing the nation's best bikes
- Becoming a modern manufacturer
- Becoming a top place to work
Your focus areas should be tighter in scope than your vision statement, but broader than specific goals, time frames, or metrics.
By defining your focus areas, you'll give your teams a guardrail to work within, which can help inspire innovation and creative problem-solving.
With a clear set of focus areas, your team will be better able to prioritize their work and stay focused on the most important things, which will ultimately lead to better business results.
👉Here’s how you can set focus areas in Cascade:
In Cascade, you can add focus areas while creating or importing an existing strategic plan from a spreadsheet. With Cascade’s Focus Area deep-dive functionality , you will be able to:
- Review the health of your focus areas in one place.
- Get a breakdown by plans, budgets, resources, and people behind each strategic priority.
- See something at-risk? Drill down into each piece of work regardless of how many plans it's a part of.
📚 Recommended read: Strategic Focus Areas: How to create them + Examples
4. Strategic Objectives
The importance of setting clear and specific objectives for your strategic plan cannot be overstated.
Strategic objectives are the specific and measurable outcomes you want to achieve . While they should align with your focus areas, they should be more detailed and have a clear deadline.
According to the 2022 State of High Performing Teams report , there is a strong correlation between goals and success not only at the individual and team level but also at the organizational level. Here’s what they found:
- Employees who are unaware of their company's goals are over three times more likely to work at a company that is experiencing a decline in revenue than employees who are aware of the goals.
- Companies with shrinking revenues are almost twice as likely to have employees with unclear work expectations.
Jumping straight into actions without defining clear objectives is a common mistake that can lead to missed opportunities or misalignment between strategy and execution.
To avoid this pitfall, we recommend you add between three and six objectives to each focus area .
It's here that we need to start being a bit more specific for the first time in your strategic planning process. Let's take a look at an example of a well-written strategic objective:
- Continue top-line growth that outpaces the industry by 31st Dec 2023.
This is too specific to be a focus area. While it's still very high level, it indicates what the company wants to accomplish and includes a clear deadline. Both these aspects are critical to a good strategic objective.
Your strategic objectives are the heart and soul of your plan, and you need to ensure they are well-crafted. So, take the time to create well-planned objectives that will help you achieve your vision and lead your organization to success.
👉Here’s how you can set objectives in Cascade:
Adding objectives in Cascade is intuitive, straightforward, and accessible from almost anywhere in the workspace. With one click, you’ll open the objective sidebar and fill out the details. These can include a timeline, the objective’s owner, collaborators, and how your objective will be measured (success criteria).
📚 Recommended read: What are Strategic Objectives? How to write them + Examples
5. Actions and Projects
Once you’ve defined your strategic objectives, the next step is to identify the specific strategic initiatives or projects that will help you achieve those objectives . They are short-term goals or actionable steps you or your team members will take to accomplish objectives. They should leverage the company’s resources and core competencies.
Effective projects and actions in your strategic plan should:
- Be extremely specific.
- Contain a deadline.
- Have an owner.
- Align with at least one of your strategic objectives.
- Provide clarity on how you or your team will achieve the strategic objective.
Let's take a look at an example of a well-written project continuing with our bike manufacturing company using the strategic objective from above:
Strategic objective: Continue top-line growth that outpaces the industry by 31st Dec 2023.
Project: Expand into the fixed gear market by 31st December 2023.
This is more specific than the objective it links to, and it details what you will do to achieve the objective.
Another common problem area for strategic plans is that they never quite get down to the detail of what you're going to do.
It's easier to state "we need to grow our business," but without concrete projects and initiatives, those plans will sit forever within their PowerPoint templates, never to see the light of day after their initial creation.
Actions and projects are where the rubber meets the road. They connect the organizational strategic goals with the actual capabilities of your people and the resources at their disposal. Defining projects is a vital reality check every strategic plan needs.
👉Here’s how you create actions and projects in Cascade:
From the Objective sidebar, you can choose to add a project or action under your chosen objective. In the following steps, you can assign an owner and timeline to each action or project.
Plus, in Cascade, you can track the progress of each project or action in four different ways. You can do it manually, via milestones, checklists, or automatically by integrating with Jira and 1000+ other available integrations .
📚 Recommended read: How to create effective projects
Measuring progress towards strategic objectives is essential to effective strategic control and business success. That's where Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) come in. KPIs are measurable values that track progress toward achieving key business objectives . They keep you on track and help you stay focused on the goals you set for your organization.
To get the most out of your KPIs, make sure you link them to a specific goal or objective. In this way, you'll avoid creating KPIs that don't contribute to your objectives and distract you from focusing on what matters.
Ideally, you will add both leading and lagging KPIs to each objective so you can get a more balanced view of how well you're progressing. Leading KPIs can indicate future performance while lagging KPIs show how well you’ve done in the past. Both types of KPIs are critical for operational planning and keeping your business on track.
Think of KPIs as a form of signpost in your organization. They provide critical insights that inform business leaders of their organization’s progress toward key business objectives. Plus, they can help you identify opportunities faster and capitalize on flexibility.
👉Here’s how you can set and track KPIs in Cascade:
In Cascade , you can add measures while creating your objectives or add them afterward. Open the Objective sidebar and add your chosen measure.
When you create your Measure, you can choose how to track it. Using Cascade, you can track it manually or automatically. You can automate tracking via 1000+ integrations , including Excel spreadsheets and Google Sheets. In this way, you can save time and ensure that your team has up-to-date information for faster and more confident decision-making.
📚 Recommended read: 10 Popular KPI Software Tools To Connect & Visualize Your Data (2023 Guide)
Corporate Strategic Plan
Following the steps outlined above, you should end up with a strategic plan that looks something like this:
This is a preview of a corporate strategic plan template that is pre-filled with examples. Here you can use the template for free and begin filling it out to align with your organization's needs. Plus, it’s suitable for organizations of all sizes and any industry.
Once you fill in the template, you can also switch to the timeline view. You’ll get a complete overview of how the different parts of your plan are distributed across the roadmap in a Gantt chart view.
This template will help you create a structured approach to the strategic planning process, focus on key strategic priorities, and drive accountability to achieve necessary business outcomes.
👉 Get your free corporate strategic plan template here.
Coca-Cola Strategic Plan
Need a bit of extra inspiration to start writing your organization’s strategic plan? Check out this strategic plan example, inspired by Coca-Cola’s business plan:
This template is pre-filled with Coca-Cola’s examples so you can inspire your strategic success on one of the most iconic brands on the planet.
👉 Grab your free example of a Coca-Cola strategic plan here.
The Ramsay Health Care expansion strategy
Ramsay Health Care is a multinational healthcare provider with a strong presence in Australia, Europe, and Asia.
Almost all of its growth was organic and strategic. The company founded its headquarters in Sydney, Australia, but in the 21st century, it decided to expand globally through a primary strategy of making brownfield investments and acquisitions in key locations.
Ramsay's strategy was simple yet clever. By becoming a majority shareholder of the biggest local players, the company expanded organically in each region by leveraging and expanding their expertise.
Over the last two decades, Ramsay's global network has grown to 460 locations across 10 countries with over $13 billion in annual revenue.
📚 Recommended read: Strategy study: The Ramsay Health Care Growth Study
✨ Bonus resource: We've created a list of the most popular and free strategic plan templates in our library that will help you build a strategic plan based on the Cascade model explained in this article. You can use these templates to create a plan on a corporate, business unit, or team level.
We highlighted before that other strategic models often fail to scale strategic plans and goals scales across multiple teams and organizational levels.
In an ideal world, you want to have a maximum of two layers of detail underneath each of your focus areas. This means you'll have a focus area, followed by a layer of objectives. Underneath the objectives, you'll have a layer of actions, projects, and KPIs.
If you have a single team that’s responsible for the strategy execution, this works well. However, how do you implement a strategy across multiple and cross-functional teams? And why is it important?
According to LSA research of 410 companies across 8 industries, highly aligned companies grow revenue 58% faster and are 72% more profitable. And this is what Cascade can help you achieve.
To achieve achieve organization-wide alignment with your strategic plan and impact the bottom line, there are two ways to approach it in Casade: through contributing objectives or shared objectives .
1. Contributing objectives
This approach involves adding contributing objectives that link to your main strategic objectives, like this:
For each contributing objective, you simply repeat the Objective → Action/Project → KPI structure as follows:
Here's how you can create contributing objectives in Cascade:
Option A: Create contributing objectives within the same plan
This means creating multiple contributing objectives within the same strategic plan that contribute to the main objective.
However, be aware that if you have a lot of layers, your strategic plan can become cluttered, and people might have difficulty understanding how their daily efforts contribute to the strategic plan at the top level.
For example, the people responsible for managing contributing objectives at the bottom of the plan ( functional / operational level ) will lose visibility on how are their objectives linked to the main focus areas and objectives (at a corporate / business level ).
This approach is best suited to smaller organizations that only need to add a few layers of objectives to their plan.
Option B: Create contributing objectives from multiple plans linking to the main objective
This approach creates a network of aligned strategic plans within your organization. Each plan contains a set of focus areas and one single layer of objectives, each with its own set of projects, actions, and KPIs. This concept looks like this:
This example illustrates an objective that is a main objective in the IT strategic plan, but also contributes to the main strategic plan's objective.
For example, let’s say that your main business objective is to improve customer satisfaction by reducing product delivery time by 25% in the next quarter. This objective requires multiple operational teams within your organization to work together to achieve a shared objective.
Each team will create its own objective in its plan to contribute to the main objective:
- Logistics team: Reduce the shipment preparation time by 30%
- IT team: Implement new technology to reduce manual handling in the warehouse
- Production team: Increase production output by hour for 5%
Here’s how this example would look like within Cascade platform:
Although each contributing objective was originally created in its own plan, you can see how each contributing objective relates to the main strategic objective and its status in real-time.
2. Shared objectives
In Cascade, shared objectives are the same objectives shared across different strategic plans.
For example, you can have an objective that is “Achieve sustainable operations”. This objective can be part of the Corporate Strategy Plan, but also part of the Operations Plan , Supply Chain Plan , Production Plan, etc. In short, this objective becomes a shared objective between multiple teams and strategic plan.
This approach helps you to:
- Cascade your business strategy as deep as you want across a near-infinite number of people while maintaining strategic alignment throughout your organization .
- Create transparency and a much higher level of engagement in the strategy throughout your organization since objective owners are able to identify how their shared efforts contribute to the success of the main business objectives.
The more shared objectives you have across your organization, the more your teams will be aligned with the overarching business strategy. This is what we call " alignment health ”.
Here’s how you can see the shared objectives in the alignment map and analyze alignment health within Cascade:
You get a snapshot of how is your corporate strategic plan aligned with sub-plans from different business units or departments and the status of shared objectives. This helps you quickly identify misaligned initiatives and act before it’s too late. Plus, cross-functional teams have better visibility of how their efforts contribute to shared objectives.
So whether you choose contributing objectives or shared objectives, Cascade has the tools and features to help you achieve organization-wide alignment and boost your bottom line.
Quick Overview Of Key Steps In Writing A Strategic Plan
Here’s a quick infographic to help you remember how everything connects and why each element is critical to creating an effective strategic plan:
This simple answer to how to write a strategic plan avoids confusing jargon and has elements that the whole organization can both get behind and understand.
💡Tip: Save this image or bookmark this article for your next strategic planning session.
If you're struggling to write an execution-ready strategic plan, the Cascade model is the solution you've been looking for. With its clear, easy-to-understand terminology, and simple linkages between objectives, projects, and KPIs, you can create a plan that's both scalable and flexible.
But why is a flexible and execution-ready strategic plan so important? It's simple: without a clear and actionable plan, you'll never be able to achieve your business objectives. By using the Cascade Strategic Planning Model, you'll be able to create a plan that's both tangible and measurable, with KPIs that help you track progress towards your goals.
However, the real value of the Cascade framework lies in its flexibility . By creating links between main business objectives and your teams’ objectives, you can easily scale your plan without losing focus. Plus, the model's structure of linked layers means that you can always adjust your strategy in response to new challenges or opportunities and keep everyone on the same page.
So if you want to achieve results with your strategic plan, start using Cascade today. With its unique combination of flexibility and focus, it's the perfect tool for any organization looking to master strategy execution and succeed in today's fast-paced business world.
Want to see Cascade in action? Get started for free or book a 1:1 demo with Cascade’s in-house strategy expert.
This article is part one of our mini-series "How to Write a Strategic Plan". This first article will give you a solid strategy model for your plan and get the strategic thinking going.
Think of it as the foundation for your new strategy. Subsequent parts of the series will show you how to create the content for your strategic plan.
Articles in our How to Write a Strategic Plan series
- How To Write A Strategic Plan: The Cascade Model (This article)
- How to Write a Good Vision Statement
- How To Create Company Values
- Creating Strategic Focus Areas
- How To Write Strategic Objective
- How To Create Effective Projects
- How To Write KPIs + Ultimate Guide To Strategic Planning
More resources on strategic planning and strategy execution:
- 6 Steps to Successful Strategy Execution
- 4-Step Strategy Reporting Process (With Template)
- Annual Planning: Plan Like a Pro In 5 Steps (+ Template)
- 18 Free Strategic Plan Templates (Excel & Cascade) 2023
- The Right Way To Set Team Goals
- 23 Best Strategy Tools For Your Organization in 2023
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Sample Strategic Plans
Strategy is more than simply achieving business goals. it creates clarity, alignment and organization-wide engagement. we’ve assembled a handful of sample strategic plans. some are from our clients. others are just examples. all of them reflect good general guidelines and structure, which can be incorporated into your own strategy design., for profit sample strategic plans, these sample plans are based on a fictional organization. the information for our business clients is confidential..
One-Page Strategic Plan
An easy-to-read, full-color overview to help everyone visualize the complete strategy.
Company Strategic Plan
A summary of your strategic plan with strategic objectives, goals and action items.
Department Strategic Plan
An assessment of your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Department Action Plan
A quick-hit summary of progress against goals and action items. Great for use at strategy reviews.
Individual Action Plan
Team Member Performance Review
Use this action plan as a performance review sheet for periodic staff reviews.
Non-Profit Sample Strategic Plans
These sample plans are deliverables for north slope borough school district. this is public information and is shareable..
School One-Page Strategic Plan
School Full Strategic Plan
School Strategic Plan with Progress
Church Sample Strategic Plans
Church One-Page Strategic Plan
Church Full Strategic Plan
Church One-Click Strategic Plan
A comprehensive report from mission through action items & includes SWOT, scorecard, roadmap & budget.
A summary of high-level goals broken out by year according to the dates established during goal.
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Real-world examples of organizations that have trusted AchieveIt
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Learn What Makes a Good Example of a Strategic Plan
blog , Strategic Planning , Strategic Planning Tools , Structure
What Makes a Good Example of a Strategic Plan?
Many companies are looking for help, searching for an example of a strategic plan as a yardstick they can use to compare their own plans. But strategic plans can come in many forms, shapes, and sizes; they are not a “one size fits all” document. There are simple strategic plans that include goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics, as well as complex plan structures that include multiple levels and layers. How developed your plan needs to be depends on several factors, including the level of accountability you are trying to create, the time frame for implementing the plan, and the culture of your organization. In this post, you’ll see an example of a strategic plan that is most common among businesses today.
Strategic Plan Example: Basic Structure
At a minimum, strategic and operational plans contain three levels that serve specific functions. These are listed in inverse order as they appear in a plan, to demonstrate the linkage from bottom up:
- Tactics: These are task assignments that must be carried out on an individual basis. These action items comprise the strategies. For instance, if you have a client satisfaction strategy that focuses on an annual client event, there are a number of things that must be completed in order for the event to happen. These are the tactics, which include due dates, deliverables, and are assigned to specific people for execution.
- Strategies: The collection of tactics need a name, and this name is the strategy. The name of the strategy provides the focus for something specific, and the strategy itself contains individual tactics. As such, strategies are the broad action-oriented items that we implement to achieve the objectives. In this example, the client event strategy is designed to improve overall client satisfaction. We may have additional strategies aimed at improving client satisfaction, and each of these other strategies will have a collection of tactics, too.
- Objectives: These are quantifiable and measurable targets, that answer the questions of how much, by when. There is an old adage that you can’t improve what you don’t measure. As such, plans without measurable objectives are no plans at all; they are merely task lists. Objectives include baseline performance, targeted performance, and an established date for achieving the objective. Any example of a strategic plan must include objectives, as they are the foundation for planning. In this example, our objective is to increase client satisfaction from 82% to 90% by December 31st. How we accomplish that is the business of strategies and tactics.
Strategic Plan Example: Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics
Objective 1: Increase client satisfaction from 82.0% to 90.0% by December 31st.
- Strategy 1.1: Implement an annual client conference • Tactic 1.1.1: Identify date and venue • Tactic 1.1.2: Develop agenda • Tactic 1.1.3: Identify and invite speakers • Tactic 1.1.4: Develop social events • Tactic 1.1.5: Develop menus • Tactic 1.1.6: Develop invitations
Strategic Plan Example: Strategic Themes and Goals
Although objectives, strategies, and tactics are core elements in any example of a strategic plan, they are not the only elements. Many plans are more robust and include additional levels in the hierarchy. These levels are usually referred to as strategic themes and goals, and they come before objectives. As such, a fully developed plan would look like the example of a strategic plan below:
- Strategic Themes: These are one- to three-word affinity group headings used to compartmentalize strategic and operational plans, such as Quality, Safety, People, Customers, Service, Finance, and Growth. For companies that use strategic themes, four to six such categories appear to be the most common.
- Goals: These are broad statements that translate the organization’s vision statement into something more meaningful and time-bound. If strategic themes are also used, goal statements are used to translate the vision to specific strategic themes.
- Objectives: Similar to above, Objectives are the quantifiable items that measure the success of your Goals, and ultimately your strategic plan. They should measure how you plan to increase, decrease, or maintain some key performance indicators critical to the success of the goal.
- Strategies: With an understanding of success measures, Strategies determine how your strategic plan will be executed and ultimately move the needle on Objectives. In some organizations, strategies are called initiatives or projects or programs. Regardless of the term used, Strategies set the foundation for the actual work that will make up the plan itself.
- Tactics: To best execute a strategic plan, a strategy needs to be broken down properly. In many cases, these are your tactics. Tactics are the core components of your strategies that will help measure success towards completion. Tactics are NOT quick tasks that can be completed by checking a box and instead are milestones or key deliverables of the strategies.
Strategic Plan Template
This five level strategic plan template will help you create a plan that’s built around best practices for optimized execution.
Strategic Plan Example: A Complete Plan
Strategic Theme : Satisfaction
Goal : To be considered a trusted partner by our clients
Objective 1: Increase client satisfaction from 82.0% to 90.0% by December 31st.
Keep in mind that there are many acceptable formats for strategic plans and you should use the approach that is right for you. Some companies prefer the one-page approach and others don’t adhere to specific approaches other than perhaps implementing a basic structure like the ones above. Either way, remember that creating a strategic plan is only the beginning; the hard part is executing it .
The best way to ensure your plan gets executed is to get everything in view, get everyone engaged, and work with a team that will give you every possible advantage. When you’ve got your plan crafted and ready to execute, take these next steps .
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- Get everything in view – so you can see what’s happening with every initiative, at every level, from the enterprise to the individual, in real-time.
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How to write a strategic plan
A strategic plan is essential for every business. It tells you and your team where you’re going as a company and how to get there.
But many businesses go through a time-consuming and costly strategic planning exercise, only to find themselves with a plan that is ignored or just glanced at once a year. A common reason is that the plan itself isn’t written properly.
A strategic plan must give you and your team a simple, clear roadmap of what to do next. At its heart should be a prioritized list of your best ideas and specific steps to achieve your company’s goals.
“A strategic plan has to be actionable and easy to understand so your team can execute it and use it as a daily reference,” says Devesh Dwivedi , a Senior Business Advisor with BDC’s Advisory Services, who specializes in counselling businesses on strategic planning.
“The plan shouldn’t be academic or stuck in theory. It has to be boiled down to the basics so it is very clear to everyone what your goals are and what actions are needed from each employee.”
Strategic planning is about finding a short list of the highest-impact projects. It’s a filter.
Senior Business Advisor, BDC Advisory Services
Dwivedi gives this advice for what a strategic plan should contain and how it should be written. After each step, Dwivedi prepares a report to sum up the discussion and key findings. This report is then validated with the CEO and key employees and any input integrated before work starts on the next step.
What is the strategic planning process?
Strategic plans typically include four elements. Dwivedi writes them in this order:
1. Current state section
Dwivedi begins by preparing a section on the company’s current state, which answers the question: “Where are we?”
The current state section is about 15 to 20 pages in length and includes:
- A company overview — past milestones and achievements, current products or services, markets, key competencies, financial analysis, sales performance and trends in recent years, current key performance indicators
- Current organizational structure, vision and mission statements and value chain
- Challenges by department
- A PESTEL analysis chart identifying external or macro factors affecting the business (PESTEL is an acronym for political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal)
- Porter’s Five Forces (tool for analyzing the competition)
- A 7-S Assessment (review of your skills, style, strategy, staff, structure, systems and shared values)
- A BCG Growth Share Matrix (chart devised by Boston Consulting Group to illustrate each strategic business area according to growth rate and market share)
- SWOT analysis (an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats)
An appendix may be added at the end with extra information, such as:
- Risks and barriers to implementation
- One-page summaries of the future and current state sections
2. Future state section
The next section describes the desired future state of the company. This section is typically around 10 to 15 pages long and is based on workshops and interviews that Dwivedi holds with key employees.
The future state section should include these elements:
- Strategic objectives
- Vision statement summarizing the company’s aspirations for the future
- Mission statement and core values and any anticipated changes
- Broad, high-level goals , expressed in long-term statements
- Future business model — this can be described with a business model canvas
- Desired future value proposition
- Aspirational statements that expand on the vision statement
One or more subsections can be included to give additional details on various elements and why they’ve been adopted.
3. Strategic plan section
This section describes how your company will bridge the gap between its current state and the desired future state.
Dwivedi holds a series of strategic planning workshops and interviews with the CEO and key employees to brainstorm ideas on how to achieve the company’s goals. These sessions usually lead to a short list of five to 10 ideas to research further. Based on the company’s capabilities, these should be narrowed down to three to five initiatives that will lead the business to its goals in a sustainable and profitable fashion. Throughout the process, the entrepreneur and their team work closely with the consultant.
“Strategic planning is the art of saying no more than the art of saying yes,” Dwivedi says. “As a business, you can do a million things. The reason the entrepreneur is often running in circles is they don’t know what to work on. They get distracted by a red shiny ball, like a logo or website redesign, or the latest social media platform. Strategic planning is about finding a short list of the highest-impact projects. It’s a filter.”
The section is generally 10 to 15 pages long and includes these elements:
- Corporate directions — a broad overview of what you need to do to achieve your goals
- Strategic priorities — a list of your main projects
- Details on actions needed for each strategy
- Financial projections by market, product and other potential categories
- Action plan — a one-page spreadsheet listing each action, who is responsible for carrying it out and otherwise involved, a timeline for its completion and a key performance indicator to monitor progress
“The action plan is a simplified summary of the whole plan and should be referred to continually by your team to make sure their daily actions add up to the strategic plan,” Dwivedi says.
4. Executive summary
When Dwivedi works with his clients, he normally ends the strategic planning process by writing a one- or two-page executive summary. Although it’s written last, the executive summary is presented first in the final report.
“Think of it as developing a book summary: You can only do it if you have read the entire book,” Dwivedi says.
The executive summary includes the company’s vision and mission statements and a very brief description of these elements:
- The company and its products or services
- Major internal and external challenges
- Financial overview
- Strategic priorities — projects needed to achieve the objectives
- Action plan — specific steps in each project
It can also be useful to include a small subsection or box highlighting key observations or findings about the company and its goals.
Tips for strategic planning
Dwivedi shares a few extra tips about how strategic plans should be written:
- The final strategic plan is presented in reverse order In order to make them more actionable, strategic plans are often presented in reverse order as compared to the order in which each area is discussed in the strategic planning exercise.
In the final plan, the sections appear in this order:
- Executive summary
- Future state plan
- Strategic plan with action plan
- Current state
“The executive summary and future state plan come first in the plan because we want to emphasize the purpose of the whole exercise, which is creating a roadmap to achieve your goals,” Dwivedi says.
“You don’t want to move forward to the future state if the current state isn’t accurate.”
- Be clear and concise The plan should be clear and concise. It’s useful to present it as a PowerPoint document, which offers a visually accessible format in which information is easy to find and see. The optimal length is about 40 to 70 pages . Any shorter and you risk skipping important information; if longer, the plan may get bogged down in excessive detail, making it harder to implement. Making a strategic plan is a complex and time-consuming process, but it is worth it to guide your long-term growth. To learn more about how you can work with Dwivedi or one of our other BDC experts, please consult our strategic planning services .
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How to Develop a Strategic Plan for Business Development [Free Template]
Updated: August 25, 2021
Published: April 01, 2021
Business development. It’s usually confused with sales , often overlooked, and only sometimes given the strategic focus it deserves. Having a business development strategy, however, is crucial to long-term success and ensuring that everyone in your company is working toward a common goal.
But how do you develop a business development plan? Pull up a chair and stay awhile, I’m diving into that and more below.
Business development is the practice of identifying, attracting, and acquiring new business to further your company’s revenue and growth goals. How you achieve these goals is sometimes referred to as a business development strategy — and it applies to and benefits everyone at your company.
It’s not unusual to mistake business development with sales, but there’s an important distinction between the two. Business development refers to many activities and functions inside and outside the traditional sales team structure. In some companies, business development is part of the larger sales operations team. In others, it’s part of the marketing team or sits on its own team altogether.
Ready to dive in? Here are the key business development strategies you’ll want to implement.
Business Development Strategies
- Understand your competitive landscape.
- Choose effective KPIs.
- Develop long-term customer relationships.
- Implement customer feedback.
- Keep your website content and user interface fresh.
- Speed up your response time.
- Leverage a sales plan to identify areas of growth.
- Implement a social listening strategy.
- Sponsor industry organizations, conferences, and events.
Free Strategic Planning Template
Fill out this form to get the strategic growth template., 1. understand your competitive landscape..
Before you can develop a strategic plan to drive business growth, you must have a solid understanding of the competitive landscape in your industry. When you know who your ideal customer is and what problem they are looking to solve with your product or service, research who else is providing a viable solution in your industry.
Identify other companies operating in your space. What features do their products have? How competitive is their pricing? Do their systems integrate with other third-party solutions? Get crystal-clear on what the competition is offering so you know how to differentiate your product to your customers.
Featured Resource: 10 Competitive Analysis Templates
Download the Free Templates Now
2. Choose effective KPIs.
How will you know if your business development efforts are successful? Ensure you can measure your goals with relevant, meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) that reflect the health of your business. The result of these metrics should give you a strong indication of how effective your business development efforts are.
Featured Resource: Sales Metrics Calculator Dashboard
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3. Develop long-term customer relationships.
Do you engage with your customers even after the deal has been closed? If not, it’s time to develop a plan to keep your buyers engaged. Building long-term relationships with your customers pays off. A grand majority of a company's business comes from repeat customers, and returning customers are cheaper to convert. Indeed, it’s famously known that it costs five times more to convert new customers than it does to sell to returning customers.
Not only are repeat customers easier to sell to, they can also provide valuable feedback and insights to help you improve your business. Additionally, customer testimonials can be used for valuable content that can attract your next buyer.
4. Implement customer feedback.
If and when you have customers who are willing to provide feedback on your sales process and offerings, make sure you hear them out and implement it. Your customers offer a unique, valuable perspective because they chose your product over the competition — their insights can help shape your strategy to keep your business ahead of the curve.
5. Keep your website content and user interface fresh.
When was the last time your company had a website refresh? Can you ensure that all links are working, that your site is easy to navigate, and that it is laid out and intuitive for those who want to buy from you?
Keeping your website up-to-date and easy to use can make or break the sale for customers who know they are ready to buy. Don’t make it too difficult for potential customers to get in touch with you or purchase your product directly (if that suits your business model).
6. Speed up your response time.
How fast your sales team responds to your leads can make or break your ability to close the deal. If you notice your sales process has some lag time that prevents you from responding to prospects as soon as possible, these could be areas to prioritize improvement.
7. Leverage a sales plan to identify areas of growth.
No business development strategy is complete without a sales plan . If you’ve already established a plan, make sure to unify it with your business development efforts. Your plan should outline your target audience, identify potential obstacles, provide a “game plan” for sales reps, outline responsibilities for team members, and define market conditions.
While a sales plan primarily affects your sales team, it can inform the activities of your business development reps. A sales plan can help them understand where the business needs growth — whether it’s in a new vertical, a new audience, or a new need that’s recently come to light in the industry.
Not sure how to create a sales plan? Download the following template to get started.
Featured Resource: Sales Plan Template
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8. Implement a social listening strategy.
While social listening is mainly used in a marketing and customer service context, it’s also an essential practice for business development. There are more than 4 billion social media users worldwide. Naturally, social media is one of the best places to hear directly from consumers and businesses — without needing to reach out to them first.
In business development, you can use social listening to track what the general public is saying about your brand, industry, product offerings, product category, and more. It can help you identify key weaknesses in the industry, making it a prime opportunity to be the first to address those pitfalls.
Use a social listening tool to pick up on trends before they gain traction.
9. Sponsor industry organizations, conferences, and events.
A key facet of business development is reaching potential customers where they are. One of the easiest ways to do that is by sponsoring industry organizations, conferences, and events. This strategy will guarantee that your business development reps get valuable face-to-face time with your business’ target audience. The additional visibility can also help establish your business as a leader in the field.
Now that you understand what business development entails, it's time to create a plan to set your strategy in motion.
How to Develop a Strategic Plan
When we refer to a business development strategic plan, we’re referring to a roadmap that guides the whole company and requires everyone’s assistance to execute successfully and move your customer through the flywheel . With a plan, you’ll close more deals and quantify success.
Let’s go over the steps you should take to create a strategic plan.
1. Download our strategic plan template .
First, download our free growth strategy template to create a rock-solid strategic plan. With this template, you can map a growth plan for increasing sales, revenue, and customer acquisition rates. You can also create action plans for adding new locations, creating new product lines, and expanding into new regions.
Featured Resource: Strategic Plan Template
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2. Craft your elevator pitch.
What is your company’s mission and how do you explain it to potential clients in 30 seconds or less? Keeping your elevator pitch at the forefront of all strategic planning will remind everyone what you’re working toward and why.
Some people believe the best pitch isn’t a pitch at all , but a story. Others have their favorite types of pitches , from a one-word pitch to a Twitter pitch that forces you to boil down your elevator pitch to just 280 characters.
Find the elevator pitch that works best for your reps, company, and offer, and document it in your business development strategy.
3. Include an executive summary.
You’ll share your strategic plan with executives and maybe even board members, so it’s important they have a high-level overview to skim. Pick the most salient points from your strategic plan and list or summarize them here.
You might already have an executive summary for your company if you’ve written a business proposal or value proposition . Use this as a jumping off point but create one that’s unique to your business development goals and priorities.
Once your executives have read your summary, they should have a pretty good idea of your direction for growing the business — without having to read the rest of your strategy.
3. Set SMART goals.
What are your goals for this strategy? If you don’t know, it will be difficult for your company and team to align behind your plan. So, set SMART goals . Remember, SMART stands for:
Featured Resource: SMART Goal Setting Template
If one of your goals is for 5% of monthly revenue to come from upsells or cross-sells, make this goal specific by identifying what types of clients you’ll target.
Identify how you’ll measure success. Is success when reps conduct upsell outreach to 30 clients every month, or is it when they successfully upsell a customer and close the deal? To make your goal attainable, ensure everyone on your team understands who is responsible for this goal: in this case, sales or business development reps.
This goal is relevant because it will help your company grow, and likely contributes to larger company-wide goals. To make it time-based, set a timeline for success and action. In this case, your sales team must achieve that 5% upsell/cross-sell number by the end of the quarter.
4. Conduct SWOT analysis.
SWOT is a strategic planning technique used to identify a company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Before conducting a SWOT, identify what your goal is. For example, “We’d like to use SWOT to learn how best to conduct outreach to prospective buyers.”
Once you’ve identified what you’re working toward, conduct market research by talking with your staff, business partners, and customers.
Next, identify your business’ strengths. Perhaps you have low employee turnover, a central location that makes it easy to visit with prospects in person, or an in-demand feature your competitors haven’t been able to mimic.
Featured Resource: Market Research Kit with SWOT Analysis Template
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Your business’ weaknesses are next. Has your product recently glitched? Have you been unable to successfully build out a customer service team that can meet the demands of your customers?
Then, switch to opportunities. For example, have you made a new business partnership that will transition you into a previously untapped market segment?
What are the threats? Is your physical space getting crowded? What about your market space? Is increasing competition an issue?
Use SWOT results to identify a better way forward for your company.
5. Determine how you’ll measure success.
You’ve identified strengths and weaknesses and set SMART goals , but how will you measure it all ? It’s important for your team to know just how they will be measured, goaled, and rewarded. Common key performance indicators (KPIs) for business development include:
- Company growth
- Lead conversion rate
- Leads generated per month
- Client satisfaction
- Pipeline value
6. Set a budget.
What will your budget be for achieving your goals? Review financial documents, historical budgets, and operational estimates to set a budget that’s realistic.
Once you have a “draft” budget, check it against other businesses in your industry and region to make sure you’re not overlooking or misjudging any numbers. Don’t forget to factor in payroll, facilities costs, insurance, and other operational line items that tend to add up.
7. Identify your target customer.
Who will your business development team pursue? Your target market is the group of customers your product/service was built for. For example, if you sell a suite of products for facilities teams at enterprise-level companies, your target market might be facilities or janitorial coordinators at companies with 1000+ employees. To identify your target market:
- Analyze your product or service
- Check out the competition
- Choose criteria to segment by
- Perform research
Your target customer is the person most likely to buy your product. Do your homework and make sure your business development plan addresses the right people. Only then will you be able to grow your business.
8. Choose an outreach strategy.
What tactics will you use to attract new business for your sales team to close? You might focus on a single tactic or a blend of a few. Once you know who your target market is and where they “hang out,” then you can choose an appropriate outreach strategy.
Will your business development plan rely heavily on thought leadership such as speaking at or attending conferences? Will you host a local meetup for others in your industry? Or will your reps network heavily on LinkedIn and social media?
If referrals will be pivotal to your business’ growth, consider at which stage of the buying process your BDRs will ask for referrals. Will you ask for a referral even if a prospect decides they like your product/service but aren’t a good fit? Or will you wait until a customer has been using your solution for a few months? Define these parameters in your strategy.
Upselling and Cross-Selling
Upselling and cross-selling are a cost-effective way of growing your business. But it’s important that this tactic is used with guardrails. Only upsell clients on features that will benefit them as well as your bottom line. Don’t bloat client accounts with features or services they really don’t need — that’s when turnover and churn start to happen.
Sponsorship and Advertising
Will your BDR work with or be on the marketing team to develop paid advertising campaigns? If so, how will your BDRs support these campaigns? And which channels will your strategy include? If you sell a product, you might want to feature heavily on Instagram or Facebook. If you’re selling a SaaS platform, LinkedIn or Twitter might be more appropriate.
What’s your outreach strategy? Will your BDRs be held to a quota to make 25 calls a week and send 15 emails? Will your outreach strategy be inbound , outbound , or a healthy combination of both? Identify the outreach guardrails that best match your company values for doing business.
Strategic Plan Example
Let’s put all of these moving parts in action with a strategic plan example featuring good ol’ Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.
Elevator Pitch Example for Strategic Plan
Dunder Mifflin is a local paper company dedicated to providing excellent customer support and the paper your business needs to excel today and grow tomorrow.
Here are some additional resources for inspiration:
- Elevator Pitch Examples to Inspire Your Own
- Components of an Elevator Pitch
Executive Summary Example for Strategic Plan
At Dunder Mifflin, our strengths are our customer service, speed of delivery, and our local appeal. Our weakness is that our sales cycle is too long.
To shorten the sales cycle 5% by the end of Q4, we need to ask for more referrals (which already enjoy a 15% faster sales cycle), sponsor local professional events, and outreach to big box store customers who suffer from poor customer support and are more likely to exit their contract. These tactics should allow us to meet our goal in the agreed-upon timeline.
- How to Write an Incredibly Well-Written Executive Summary [+ Example]
- Executive Summary Template
SMART Goals Example for Strategic Plan
Dunder Mifflin’s goal is to decrease our sales cycle 5% by the end of Q4. We will do this by more proactively scheduling follow-up meetings, sourcing more qualified, ready-to-buy leads, and asking for 25% more referrals (which have a 15% shorter sales cycle already). We will measure success by looking at the sales pipeline and calculating the average length of time it takes a prospect to become closed won or closed lost.
- 5 Dos and Don'ts When Making a SMART Goal [Examples]
- How to Write a SMART Goal
- SMART Marketing Goals Template
SWOT Analysis Example for Strategic Plan
Strengths: Our strengths are our reputation in the greater Scranton area, our customer service team (led by Kelly Kapoor), and our warehouse team, who ship same day reams to our customers — something the big box stores cannot offer.
Weaknesses: Our greatest weakness is that our sales team has been unable to successfully counter prospects who choose big box stores for their paper supply. This results in a longer than average sales cycle, which costs money and time.
Opportunities: Our greatest business opportunity is to conduct better targeted outreach to prospects who are ready to buy, ask for more referrals from existing customers, and follow-up with closed lost business that’s likely coming up on the end of an annual contract with a big box store.
Threats: Our biggest threat is large box stores offering lower prices to our prospects and customers and a sales cycle that is too long, resulting in low revenue and slow growth.
- How to Conduct Competitive Analysis
- How to Run a SWOT Analysis for Your Business [+ Template]
- SWOT Analysis Template and Market Research Kit
Measurement of Success Example for Strategic Plan
We will measure success by looking at the sales pipeline and calculating the average length of time it takes a prospect to become closed won or closed lost.
Budget Example for Strategic Plan
You've laid out the SMART goals and the way you'll measure for success. The budget section's goal is to estimate how much investment it will take to achieve those goals. This will likely end up being a big-picture overview, broken down into a budget by a program or a summary of key investments. Consider laying it out in a table format like so:
- Budgeting Templates
- How to Write an Incredible Startup Marketing Budget
Target Customer Example for Strategic Plan
Our target customer is office managers at small- to medium-sized companies in the greater Scranton, PA area. They are buying paper for the entire office, primarily for use in office printers, custom letterhead, fax machines. They are busy managing the office and value good customer service and a fast solution for their paper needs.
- How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business
- Make My Persona Tool
Outreach Strategy Example for Strategic Plan
Networking, sponsorships, and referrals will be our primary mode of outreach. We will focus on networking at regional paper conferences, HR conferences, and local office manager meetups. We will sponsor local professional events. And we will increase the volume of referrals we request from existing customers.
Create a Strategic Plan for Business Development
Without a strategic plan, you can invest resources, time, and funds into business development initiatives that don’t grow your business. A strategic plan is crucial to align your business development and sales teams and have everyone working toward the greater good of your company.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in January 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
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Strategic Planning in Diversified Companies
- Richard F. Vancil
- Peter Lorange
The widely accepted theory of corporate strategic planning is simple: using a time horizon of several years, top management reassesses its current strategy by looking for opportunities and threats in the environment and by analyzing the company’s resources to identify its strengths and weaknesses. Management may draw up several alternative strategic scenarios and appraise them […]
The widely accepted theory of corporate strategic planning is simple: using a time horizon of several years, top management reassesses its current strategy by looking for opportunities and threats in the environment and by analyzing the company’s resources to identify its strengths and weaknesses. Management may draw up several alternative strategic scenarios and appraise them against the long-term objectives of the organization. To begin implementing the selected strategy (or continue a revalidated one), management fleshes it out in terms of the actions to be taken in the near future.
In smaller companies, strategic planning is a less formal, almost continuous process. The president and his handful of managers get together frequently to resolve strategic issues and outline their next steps. They need no elaborate, formalized planning system. Even in relatively large but undiversified corporations, the functional structure permits executives to evaluate strategic alternatives and their action implications on an ad hoc basis. The number of key executives involved in such decisions is usually small, and they are located close enough for frequent, casual get-togethers.
Large, diversified corporations, however, offer a different setting for planning. Most of them use the product/market division form of organizational structure to permit decentralized decision making involving many responsibility-center managers. Because many managers must be involved in decisions requiring coordinated action, informal planning is almost impossible.
Our focus in this article is on formal planning processes in such complex organizations. However, the thought processes in undertaking planning (as described in the opening paragraph) are essentially the same whether the organization is large or small. Therefore, even executives whose corporate situation permits informal planning may find that our delineation of the process helps them clarify their thinking. To this end, formalizing the steps in the process requires an explanation of the purpose of each step.
Three Levels of Strategy
Every corporate executive uses the words strategy and planning when he talks about the most important parts of his job. The president, obviously, is concerned about strategy; strategic planning is the essence of his job. A division general manager typically thinks of himself as the president of his own enterprise, responsible for its strategy and for the strategic planning needed to keep it vibrant and growing. Even an executive in charge of a functional activity, such as a division marketing manager, recognizes that his strategic planning is crucial; after all, the company’s marketing strategy (or manufacturing strategy, or research strategy) is a key to its success.
These quite appropriate uses of strategy and planning have caused considerable confusion about long-range planning. This article attempts to dispel that confusion by differentiating among three types of “strategy” and delineating the interrelated steps involved in doing three types of “strategic planning” in large, diversified corporations. (Admittedly, although we think our definitions of strategy and planning are useful, others give different but reasonable meanings to these words.)
The process of strategy formulation can be thought of as taking place at the three organizational levels indicated in Exhibit I: headquarters (corporate strategy), division (business strategy), and department (functional strategy). The planning processes leading to the formulation of these strategies can be labeled in parallel fashion as corporate planning, business planning, and functional planning. We have to define these notations briefly before constructing the framework of the planning process:
Exhibit I Structure of a divisionalized corporation
- Corporate planning and strategy —Corporate objectives are established at the top levels. Corporate planning, leading to the formulation of corporate strategy, is the process of (a) deciding on the company’s objectives and goals, including the determination of which and how many lines of business to engage in, (b) acquiring the resources needed to attain those objectives, and (c) allocating resources among the different businesses so that the objectives are achieved. (See the sidebar, “Objectives and Goals,” for definitions of objectives and goals as used in this article.)
Objectives and Goals
It is worth differentiating between objectives and goals, since these terms are used separately here.
Objectives are general statements describing the size, scope, and style of the enterprise in the long term. They embody the values and aspirations of the managers, based on their assessment of the environment and of the capabilities and health of the corporation. For example, the financial objective of a large, diversified, multinational corporation might be to rank in the top 10 % worldwide in compound rate of growth in earnings per share.
Goals are more specific statements of the achievements targeted for certain deadlines. At the corporate level these statements are likely to include such aspects as sales, profits, and EPS targets. Annual budgets constitute goals at all levels in the organization.
- Business planning and strategy —Business planning, leading to the formulation of business strategy, is the process of determining the scope of a division’s activities that will satisfy a broad consumer need, of deciding on the division’s objectives in its defined area of operations, and of establishing the policies adopted to attain those objectives. Strategy formulation involves selecting division objectives and goals and establishing the charter of the business, after delineating the scope of its operations vis-à-vis markets, geographical areas, and/or technology.
Thus, while the scope of business planning covers a quite homogeneous set of activities, corporate planning focuses on the portfolio of the divisions’ businesses. Corporate planning addresses matters relevant to the range of activities and evaluates proposed changes in one business in terms of its effects on the composition of the entire portfolio.
- Functional planning and strategy —In functional planning, the departments develop a set of feasible action programs to implement division strategy, while the division selects—in the light of its objectives—the subset of programs to be executed and coordinates the action programs of the functional departments. Strategy formulation involves selecting objectives and goals for each functional area (marketing, production, finance, research, and so on) and determining the nature and sequence of actions to be taken by each area to achieve its objectives and goals. Programs are the building blocks of the strategic functional plans.
Obviously, these levels of strategy impinge on each other to some extent—for example, the corporation’s choice of business areas overlaps the scope of division charters, and the delineation of the markets by the division can dictate, at the department level, the choice of strategy in the marketing function. But the distinction remains valid and useful.
An important point to note about the planning process is that it requires formal interaction among the managers at different times. The more formal aspects—business planning, functional planning, and budgeting—are a way of organizing the interaction among managers at different levels in the hierarchy; one way of conceptualizing the planning process is as a series of meetings where executives are trying to arrive at decisions about actions to be taken. In each meeting, obviously, the basic question being addressed is the same: “What should we do?”
A detailed answer to that question is best developed by breaking it into a series of more specific questions dealt with in several meetings. These questions include: What are the objectives and goals of our company? What sort of environment can we expect to operate in? What businesses are we in? What alternative strategies could we pursue in those businesses? What other businesses should we enter? Should we make entry through an acquisition or through our research? What is the best combination of existing and new businesses to achieve corporate goals? What programs should the divisions undertake? What should each division’s operating budget be?
The series of agreements among individuals in the corporate hierarchy begin on a very broad level and then are framed in progressively more detailed terms. The options are numerous in the early stages of this ordering process but narrow gradually to the final choice: a set of specific goals (budgets) for each responsibility center in the corporation. Initially, only a small group of corporate executives is involved in the process; later, more and more managers at lower levels become involved. The process eventually engages all the managers who must be committed to making the strategy work.
The reason companies adopt a complex planning process such as that shown in Exhibit II is made clear by the example of a multibillion-dollar, diversified corporation, headquartered in Europe and multinational, which had a well-established budgeting process but found “negotiating” the final budget in the closing months of each year to be difficult. The company was divisionalized, but it had decentralized very little initiative for examining strategic options.
Exhibit II Steps in the planning process
Top management, increasingly uneasy over its ability to resolve all the strategic issues implicit in the budget, decided to ask the divisions to prepare formal five-year plans for its approval before drawing up the final corporate budget. The controller’s department was to coordinate the preparation of the detailed plans. The company moved from a one-cycle planning system to a two-cycle system, as shown in Exhibit III. The result was a flood of paper work and very little strategic thinking on the division managers’ part.
Exhibit III Examples of one-, two-, and three-cycle planning processes
When top management reviewed the first set of five-year plans—a 20-pound packet of neat notebooks—it decided the results were unacceptable. It made suggestions to the divisions and requested a new set. This process was repeated no fewer than five times during the summer and early fall before all sides reached agreement and the budgeting could proceed.
After this experience corporate management agreed that the procedure needed much improvement. So in the following year the company installed a three-cycle system. The first step required no comprehensive financial projections; instead, each division manager was asked to identify three or four strategic issues for presentation and discussion at headquarters. Agreement on those issues set the stage for orderly functional planning and budgeting, which had been so cumbersome before.
An important point to note about Exhibit II is its demarcation vertically, by cycles, and also horizontally, by activities at the three managerial levels. The degree of involvement at these levels is different in each planning cycle.
In the first cycle, corporate executives and division managers are primarily involved. A division manager draws his functional subordinates into discussions about the unit’s strategy, but the functional managers’ role usually remains informal. At this point the division manager regards the strategy as “his”; then, seeking the head office’s endorsement, he formalizes it for better communication.
Once the division’s strategy is set, the second cycle begins; here functional managers play a much more important part. In both that cycle and the budgeting cycle, they have the primary responsibility for developing detailed programs and budgets. The division manager and his staff are involved more or less actively in these two cycles, while top management limits itself to a review of division proposals.
Exhibit II, of course, makes no pretense of depicting the planning process as it is universally practiced; it is only illustrative. Nor is the process as neat and orderly as it appears here. For one reason, the process does not start from scratch each year; the previous year’s efforts feed into the first cycle. Moreover, while managers plan, the world keeps turning; so during a cycle events may oblige them to hold many meetings involving two levels.
The first cycle of a formal planning process serves a dual purpose: (1) to develop a tentative set of agreements between corporate management and the division managers about overall strategy and goals, and thereby (2) to provide focus for the more detailed planning in the next cycle. The process of reaching these initial agreements requires three discrete activities: establishing corporate objectives, drawing up division charters, and setting corporate goals. The ensuing discussion centers on these activities in a hypothetical (but representative) corporation whose fiscal year corresponds with the calendar year.
Establishing Corporate Objectives
In the initial dialogue between corporate and division management—starting in early February—the two groups form a statement of the corporation’s purpose and objectives. Naturally, its scope and the degree of detail provided vary greatly from one company to another. Company X prepares a detailed statement, starting this year with the general assertion that it is a “systems-oriented, high-technology, multinational, and socially conscious company.”
The principles set out mainly for strategic planning include breakthrough strategies (such as “seek projects, internal or external, waiting for application rather than invention”), resource management (such as “continuous emphasis on market orientation as opposed to product orientation”), financing (“utilization of the borrowing power of subsidiaries to escape the provisions of the debentures and foreign investment regulations”), public relations (“genuine concern for the quality of life, inside and outside the company”), acquisitions, joint ventures, licensing (“export and import technology in the form of licenses or joint ventures, including third countries”), and so on.
The preparation of such a statement gives division managers guidance as they begin strategic planning for their businesses. So as a minimum the statement must include the intended company policies for allocating resources among the divisions. In effect, such policies constitute a statement of strategy for the entire corporation—although many businessmen are uncomfortable using the term “strategy” in such an abstract sense. Therefore, the delineation of an explicit statement of corporate strategy is often deferred until the final step in the first cycle.
Whether corporate strategy should be enunciated early or late in the planning process depends primarily on the degree of diversity in the company’s businesses. In general, the more diverse the corporation, the less feasible it is to develop an explicit, cohesive strategy for its businesses and, therefore, the more desirable it is to make the resource allocation policies explicit at an early stage. On the other hand, less diversified companies frequently delay preparing a strategy statement until the division heads have developed strategic proposals for their own businesses. Many large corporations are divisionalized, but not so many are highly diversified. The more common practice is to delay the definition (or redefinition) of corporate strategy until it can be stated in fairly explicit terms.
Drawing Up Division Charters
In mid-March headquarters calls on each division manager to (a) write or review the “charter” of his division, specifying the scope of its activities and his objectives for the business as he defines it, and (b) propose a strategy for the business and a tentative set of goals for the coming year.
Giving the initiative to the division manager at this step challenges him to think strategically about the scope of his activities and then propose a charter broad enough to permit him to contribute significantly to achieving corporate objectives. Formalizing this step in the planning process is an important device by which corporate management widens the horizons of division heads. An explicit charter also serves two secondary purposes: (1) it increases the likelihood of clear agreement between the top executives and the division manager about the scope of his activities, and (2) it reduces the risk of redundant efforts or competition between divisions.
Establishing a division’s charter is not a discrete activity; it is inextricably connected to the task of identification and analysis of alternative strategies that exploit the charter selected. Obviously, the decision based on this analysis is crucial because the long-term performance of any division is a function of the strategy it adopts, and the performance of the company as a whole is likewise a function of the strategies of its particular businesses.
Although the initiative for identifying and analyzing strategic options lies with the division manager, guidelines that headquarters gives him for presentation of his proposals affect the way he pursues the task. Increasingly common is a request by corporate management that when he proposes a strategy and specifies goals, at the same time he also present a statement of the alternative strategies which he has evaluated and rejected. The intent is not to permit the head office to second-guess the division manager’s thinking, but to ensure that he used strategic thinking in arriving at his recommendations.
In mid-May, four to ten weeks after headquarters presents its request for division proposals, the unit’s manager presents his recommendations to the corporate management group. The presentation consists at least of an integrated proposal for the division’s charter, its objectives, the strategy to be pursued, and tentative goals. The recommendations may also include a general statement of the action programs that would be developed to implement the strategy (developed in more detail in the second cycle) and a crude estimate of the resources that would be required. Detailed financial data are usually not included at this step because such information is not necessary to evaluate the strategy and because the effort of preparing it may go to waste if the recommendations are modified.
In the ensuing discussions, which extend over several meetings in late spring, corporate management and each division chief work toward reaching an agreement about the appropriate division strategy and goals.
Setting Corporate Goals
By the middle of June top management has prepared an explicit statement of corporate strategy and goals. In some companies this document is, in effect, a set of decisions on how resources are to be allocated among the divisions, as well as a forecast of the results expected from each. In most cases, however, the statement is not intended to constitute a final resource allocation decision; rather, it is designed to provide feedback to the division managers about the corporate implications of the agreed-on business strategies. The presentation and discussion of corporate strategy and goals are also commonly used as a device to initiate the second cycle of the planning process.
The sum of the recommended division goals is likely to be inadequate to achieve the goals envisioned by headquarters for the entire organization. In trying to close this “planning gap,” corporate management has only three choices:
1. It can improve division performance by pressing, during the review of division recommendations, for more aggressive strategies and more ambitious goals.
2. It can divert company resources into more promising businesses. This move may give rise to an acquisition program.
3. It can decide that the corporate goals are unrealistic and scale them down.
The fact that the corporation’s goals normally are more or less the sum of those division goals sought by top management implies that headquarters is concerned with rather minor adjustments of this portfolio of goals. If so, the first cycle of formal planning has the salutary effect of providing an annual “mid-course correction” to the trajectory of the combined businesses. Momentum is a factor in the continued success of a diversified corporation—as with a rocket headed for the moon—and a wise chief executive does not dissipate it needlessly. Rather, he nudges the bundle of energies represented by his division managers, trying to make minor adjustments early enough to be nondisruptive and at the same time affect the corporation’s position several years ahead.
Occasionally—perhaps inevitably—a major corporate shift is necessary, affecting one of its businesses. Care must be taken to isolate the effect on the remaining businesses. In late spring a couple of years ago, for example, top management of a major diversified corporation went through its usual review of division strategic plans. One operation, created to develop a substantial new business for the corporation, presented its usual story: “Buying market share in this high-technology business is very expensive, break-even is still two or three years away, and additional investment of several hundred million dollars is required. But the eventual profits will be enormous.”
The division’s management concluded that it was progressing about as expected and that its strategy was sound, and it recommended continued aggressive investment. With minor modifications, top management approved the proposal. Three months later the company abruptly announced that the business would be discontinued and the investment written off.
Poor planning? Obviously, the decision to enter the business was a mistake. But implementation of that decision, and the planning done to minimize the investment exposure without compromising the chances for success, were probably sound. There are two important lessons here about the process of corporate planning:
1. Strategic decisions—like this divestment—are not made in accordance with some precise timetable. They are made whenever top management reaches the conclusion that interference in a unit’s affairs is necessary.
2. Formal planning procedures are not intended to facilitate strategic decisions such as this—if only because a division manager rarely recommends the disposal of his operation. Rather, formal corporate strategic planning has the more modest, if no less crucial, purpose of seeking to optimize the collective thrust of the continuing businesses.
Approving a division’s strategic plan but closing the unit three months later is not hypocrisy or poor planning. The ax is much more merciful than the slow strangulation of providing inadequate resources. In the meantime, until the ax falls, division management must prove the viability of its business. For its part, headquarters must not fail to recognize the difference between a sound plan and a sound business. A sound plan deserves approval, but only top management can decide whether the business is sound enough to continue implementation of that plan.
The second planning cycle also has two purposes. First, each division head and his functional subordinates should reach tentative agreement on the action programs to be implemented over the next few years. Second, the involvement of functional managers in the long-range planning process should deepen and sharpen the strategic focus of the business and thus provide a better basis for the even more detailed budgeting task to follow.
The division manager in Company X initiates the functional planning process in the middle of June after reaching tentative agreement with top management about his organization’s charter, objectives, strategy, and goals. In the first planning meeting with subordinates, he briefly reviews the corporate/division dialogue that has just concluded and describes the approved division objectives and strategy.
At this time he usually does not make explicit the sales or profit goals, even though tentative agreement on targets has been reached. There are two reasons for dealing in generalities at this point. First, being specific might constrain the thinking of the functional managers, who have the chance in this cycle to make a creative contribution toward achieving the division’s objectives. Second, division goals will become final only when corporate management has approved the unit’s programs and allocated resources to implement them.
Long-range planning by functional managers is conceptually a simple process, being limited by the tentative agreements reached in the first cycle. It is operationally more complex than the planning activity in the first cycle, however, since it requires substantially more detailed plans and involves many more people. The purpose of such “programming”—so called because the activity focuses on specific programs—is to translate the division’s externally oriented business strategy into an internally directed, coordinated set of activities designed to implement it. Inasmuch as the resources available for implementation are always limited, programming must help ensure their optimal use.
Obviously, the scope, magnitude, and duration of a program depend on the nature of the goal. In the broadest sense, a product division of a diversified corporation might be conceived of as a “program.” The division manager’s goal may be stated in simple financial terms and extend over several years, and his discretion may be constrained only by a charter for his product line and the availability of corporate resources. In such a situation, the division program may be international in scope, almost unlimited in breadth of product line, and may involve hundreds of millions of dollars in expenditures. At the other end of the spectrum, the sales manager for a district in the northeast region of that division may have been charged with improving market penetration by 10 % over the next 18 months. His actions also fulfill the definition of a program.
The need to formalize the programming process grows as functional interdependence in the business increases and as more time is required to evaluate the effectiveness of alternative functional plans. Formalization is designed to improve the specification of programs and the matching of programs and goals.
The charter and strategy for the business and the objectives and goals that top management has set for it limit the functional manager’s strategic planning. Within those constraints, however, he may still enjoy very broad discretion concerning the best course to take. His challenge is to devise more effective ways to combine the available resources in order to achieve his goals. A useful way to look at the specification of programs is in terms of the chronology for involvement of the functional departments. In a typical manufacturing enterprise there are four types of programs to be developed:
- Existing revenue programs. An example is the development of a set of marketing programs for the existing product lines.
- New revenue programs. Planning the development and introduction of new products is an example.
- Manufacturing programs. Typically, sales forecasts by product line are furnished to the manufacturing function, which develops the programs necessary to meet the revenue goals in the marketing programs.
- Support programs. Managers of other functional support activities, such as administration, may also get involved in the development of programs.
The programming process, even when formalized, is inevitably haphazard because it requires repeated interaction among the departments. The intended result is a plan that is integrated like the two sides of a coin. On one side is the set of action programs and on the other a coordinated statement of the resources needed by each functional manager to execute his part of the program.
A major purpose of the formal programming process is to review the ongoing programs to see whether they can be expected to fulfill the goals for which they were designed. Or, if more effective programs have been devised, the existing ones must be modified or discontinued. At the same time, some “old” programs may be nearing completion, and new ones will need approval if the goals are to be met. Programming also involves coordination of functional activities to ensure that the selected programs can be implemented efficiently. Each functional department must understand the implications of a set of programs for its own activities, and the department manager must accept the tasks assigned him and the resources to be made available to him.
In our mythical Company X, after much analysis and discussion the division manager and his functional subordinates finally agree by the end of August on a set of programs to recommend to headquarters. This time, in contrast to the first, a more elaborate presentation is in order and a large number of managers—corporate and division, line and staff—may attend.
The third cycle of the formal planning process needs little explanation. Naturally, throughout the planning process top managers and division executives often discuss the allocation of resources among the divisions. But it becomes the focus of attention in the last step of the second cycle, when the divisions have completed their program proposals and sent them to the head office for approval. At this point (mid-September at Company X), decisions on allocation of resources can be made, subject to final approval when the detailed budgets are submitted (in mid-November). These general points are worth making here:
- Resource allocation is almost always a very informal, unstructured process, heavily dependent on the skill in advocacy and political weight of the executives concerned. Since it is also a continuous process, by the end of the second cycle the risk of serious mismatch between programs and resources is unlikely—if headquarters/division communications have been good.
- Although programs may have an expected life of several years, resources are usually allocated for only one year at a time. Whether top management will make a commitment to meet next year’s needs will depend on the scale and timing flexibility of the program in the competition for resources.
- Although resource allocation to projects is based on a perception of the desirability of each, corporate planning attempts to ensure that each also fits into a portfolio of undertakings.
Raising the Odds
The formal long-range planning process in large, diversified corporations is both simple and complex. Conceptually, the process is very simple—a progressive narrowing of strategic choices—although it may involve many steps along that path. Operationally, the process is far more complex than the activities we have described because the formal part of the process is only the tip of the iceberg. Good strategic planning can take place only when qualified managers engage in creative thinking—and creativity, by definition, cannot be produced on a schedule.
Yet there is little doubt that formalizing the planning process is worthwhile; it ensures that managers at all levels will devote some time to strategic thinking, and it guarantees each of them an audience for his ideas. While formal strategic planning cannot guarantee good ideas, it can increase the odds sufficiently to yield a handsome payoff.
- RV Mr. Vancil is professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School and chairman of its Control Area faculty. His most recent HBR article was “Inflation Accounting—The Great Controversy” (March–April 1976). His book, Strategic Planning Systems, will be published next January by Prentice-Hall.
- PL Peter Lorange is the president of IMD International in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he is also a professor of strategy and holds the Nestlé Chair.
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- Section 4. Developing Successful Strategies: Planning to Win
Chapter 8 Sections
- Section 1. An Overview of Strategic Planning or "VMOSA" (Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies, and Action Plans)
- Section 2. Proclaiming Your Dream: Developing Vision and Mission Statements
- Section 3. Creating Objectives
- Section 5. Developing an Action Plan
- Section 6. Obtaining Feedback from Constituents: What Changes are Important and Feasible?
- Section 7. Identifying Action Steps in Bringing About Community and System Change
- Main Section
What is a strategy?
What are the criteria for developing a good strategy, why develop strategies, when should you develop strategies for your initiative, how do you develop strategies.
A strategy is a way of describing how you are going to get things done. It is less specific than an action plan (which tells the who-what-when); instead, it tries to broadly answer the question, "How do we get there from here?" (Do we want to take the train? Fly? Walk?)
A good strategy will take into account existing barriers and resources (people, money, power, materials, etc.). It will also stay with the overall vision, mission, and objectives of the initiative. Often, an initiative will use many different strategies--providing information, enhancing support, removing barriers, providing resources, etc.--to achieve its goals.
Objectives outline the aims of an initiative--what success would look like in achieving the vision and mission. By contrast, strategies suggest paths to take (and how to move along) on the road to success. That is, strategies help you determine how you will realize your vision and objectives through the nitty-gritty world of action.
Strategies for your community initiative should meet several criteria.
Does the strategy:
- Give overall direction ? A strategy, such as enhancing experience and skill or increasing resources and opportunities, should point out the overall path without dictating a particular narrow approach (e.g., using a specific skills training program).
- Fit resources and opportunities ? A good strategy takes advantage of current resources and assets, such as people's willingness to act or a tradition of self-help and community pride. It also embraces new opportunities such as an emerging public concern for neighborhood safety or parallel economic development efforts in the business community.
- Minimize resistance and barriers ? When initiatives set out to accomplish important things, resistance (even opposition) is inevitable. However, strategies need not provide a reason for opponents to attack the initiative. Good strategies attract allies and deter opponents.
- Reach those affected ? To address the issue or problem, strategies must connect the intervention with those who it should benefit. For example, if the mission of the initiative is to get people into decent jobs, do the strategies (providing education and skills training, creating job opportunities, etc.) reach those currently unemployed?
- Advance the mission ? Taken together, are strategies likely to make a difference on the mission and objectives? If the aim is to reduce a problem such as unemployment, are the strategies enough to make a difference on rates of employment? If the aim is to prevent a problem, such as substance use, have factors contributing to risk (and protection) been changed sufficiently to reduce use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs?
Developing strategies is really a way to focus your efforts and figure out how you're going to get things done. By doing so, you can achieve the following advantages:
- Taking advantage of resources and emerging opportunities
- Responding effectively to resistance and barriers
- A more efficient use of time, energy, and resources
Developing strategies is the fourth step in the VMOSA (Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies, and Action Plans) process outlined at the beginning of this chapter. Developing strategies is the essential step between figuring out your objectives and making the changes to reach them. Strategies should always be formed in advance of taking action, not deciding how to do something after you have done it. Without a clear idea of the how, your group's actions may waste time and effort and fail to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Strategies should also be updated periodically to meet the needs of a changing environment, including new opportunities and emerging opposition to the group's efforts.
Once again, let's refer back to our friends at the fictional Reducing the Risk (RTR) Coalition that hopes to reduce the risk of teenage pregnancy in its community. We'll walk through the process of developing strategies with this group so as to better explain the who, what, and why of strategies.
As with the process you went through to write your vision and mission statements and to set your objectives, developing strategies involves brainstorming and talking to community members.
Organize a brainstorming meeting with members of your organization and members of the community
Remember, people will work best in a relaxed and welcoming environment. You can help achieve this by:
- One person speaks at a time
- No interrupting each other
- Everyone's ideas are respected
- Bringing fans or heaters (if needed) so people will be comfortable.
- Asking members to escort each other home or to their cars, the subway, or the bus stop if the meeting runs late.
- Providing refreshments. Never underestimate the power of homemade food, drinks, and other treats.
The RTR Coalition held brainstorming sessions among organization members. They invited local teens, parents, teachers, counselors, church members, and other community leaders to participate in listening sessions. These were used to help develop strategies to reduce the risk of teen pregnancy. Homemade cookies, fruit, and coffee helped make participants feel welcome.
Review (identify) the targets and agents of change for your initiative
- Your targets of change include all of the people who experience (or are at risk for) this issue or problem addressed by your initiative. Remember to be inclusive; that is, include everyone who is affected by the problem or issue or whose action or inaction contributes to it. For example, a coalition such the RTR Coalition would want to include all teenagers as potential targets of change, not just adolescents who seem particularly at risk, and parents, peers, and teachers whose actions or inactions might make a difference.
- Your agents of change include everyone who is in a position to help contribute to the solution. With the RTR Coalition, examples of agents of change might include teens, teachers, guidance counselors, parents of teens, lawmakers, and others.
Review your vision, mission, and objectives to keep you on the right track
It is helpful to review your mission, vision, and objectives to ensure that your strategies are all aligned with the goals expressed in your previous work.
Work together to brainstorm the best strategies for your initiative
The following list of questions can be a guide for deciding on the most beneficial strategies for your group:
- What resources and assets exist that can be used to help achieve the vision and mission? How can they be used best?
- What obstacles or resistance exist that could make it difficult to achieve your vision and mission? How can you minimize or get around them?
- What are potential agents of change willing to do to serve the mission?
- Do you want to reduce the existing problem, or does it make more sense to try to prevent (or reduce risk for) problems before they start? For example, if you are trying to reduce teen sexual activity, you might consider gearing some of your strategies to younger children, for whom sex is not yet a personal issue; or, to promote academic success, to work with younger children who still have full potential for learning and school success.
- How will your potential strategies decrease the risk for experiencing the problem (e.g., young girls getting pressure for sex from older men)? How will the strategies increase protective factors (e.g., support from peers; access to contraceptives)?
- What potential strategies will affect the whole population and problem? For example, connecting youth with caring adults might be good for virtually all youth, regardless of income or past experience with the problem. Also, just one strategy, affecting just one part of the community such as schools or youth organizations, often isn't enough to improve the situation. Make sure that your strategies affect the problem or issue as a whole.
- What potential strategies reach those at particular risk for the problem? For example, early screenings might help focus on those at higher risk for heart disease or cancer; past academic failure or history of drug use, for identifying with whom support and other intervention efforts might be focused.
Let's look at the strategies proposed by the members of the RTR Coalition to prevent teen pregnancy.
Example: The strategies of the RTR Coalition We will pursue the following strategies to reach each of our objectives: Assist local churches in implementing parent-child awareness sessions (for example, a series of talks might be given discussing how to talk to your preteen about sex); Include comprehensive sex education in the curriculum of students from kindergarten through grade twelve, including information on abstinence, sexual decision-making skills, and family planning / contraception at age-appropriate times; Incorporate options for teacher-led and peer support programs in the schools; Survey and report on student knowledge, attitudes, and behavior related to sexual issues; Increase access to contraception; Organize a school/community action group to create supervised after-school activities, mentor programs, etc.
Things to note about the RTR strategies:
- They give overall direction (without dictating specifics, such as the particular sexuality education curricula to be used).
- They fit local resources, including a variety of the available agents of change (in this case, peers, parents and guardians, clergy, and teachers).
- Some of the strategies try to change existing situations (such as increased access to contraception); others are geared to stop the problem of teen pregnancy before it starts (for example, assisting local churches to improve early parent-child communication).
- The strategies involve many different parts of the community, including churches and other groups from whom opposition to some strategies (such as access to contraceptives) might be expected.
- The strategies try to decrease some of the probable risk factors for teen pregnancy (lack of information, lack of access to contraceptives, peer pressure), and at the same time, they try to increase some of the possible protective factors (increased parent-child communication, church involvement, education, opportunities for a better future).
Check your proposed strategies for completeness, accuracy, and whether they contribute to the vision, mission, and objectives
Tom Wolff / AHEC/Community Partners. (1993). Coalition building tip sheets [Resource Sheets]. Amherst, MA
Concerns Report Handbook: Planning for Community Health
Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy: An Action Planning Guide for Community-Based Initiatives
Preventing Adolescent Substance Abuse: An Action Planning Guide for Community-Based Initiatives
Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: An Action Planning Guide for Community-Based Initiatives
Preventing Youth Violence: An Action Planning Guide for Community-Based Initiatives
Promoting Child Well-Being: An Action Planning Guide for Community-Based Initiatives
Promoting Health for All: Improving Access and Eliminating Disparities in Community Health
Promoting Healthy Living and Preventing Chronic Disease: An Action Planning Guide for Communities
Promoting Urban Neighborhood Development: An Action Planning Guide for Improving Housing, Jobs, Education, Safety and Health
Reducing Risk for Chronic Disease: An Action Planning Guide for Community-Based Initiatives
Work Group Evaluation Handbook
Youth Development: An Action Planning Guide for Community-Based Initiatives
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Looking for a way to take your company in a new and profitable direction? It starts with strategic planning. Keep reading to learn what a strategic plan is, why you need it and how you can strategically create one.
Business planning is important because it establishes the direction of the organization. When people plan before launching a business, they avoid many pitfalls that others do not anticipate.
An employee corrective action plan, also known as a performance improvement plan or a disciplinary action form, is a written document outlining an employee’s unsatisfactory work or behavior.
Vision: Where do you want to get to? Values: How will you behave on the journey? Focus Areas: What are going to be your strategic priorities?
These sample plans are deliverables for North Slope Borough School District. This is public information and is shareable. · School One-Page Strategic Plan.
At a minimum, strategic and operational plans contain three levels that serve specific functions. These are listed in
3. Strategic plan section · Corporate directions — a broad overview of what you need to do to achieve your goals · Strategic priorities — a list of your main
Develop a more unified leadership and culture –8 votes. OFFENSIVE STRATEGIES:.
How to implement an effective strategic plan · Study the overall market. · Complete a SWOT analysis. · Define your business goals. · Develop
1. Download our strategic plan template. · 2. Craft your elevator pitch. · 3. Include an executive summary. · 3. Set SMART goals. · 4. Conduct SWOT
Strategic Plan Examples from Animal Welfare and Environmental Nonprofits · Rewilding Europe Strategic Plan 2019 – 2021 · Durrell Wildlife
Examples of strategy plans for business, marketing, education and government.
A detailed answer to that question is best developed by breaking it into a series of more specific questions dealt with in several meetings. These questions
A good strategy will take into account existing barriers and resources (people, money, power, materials, etc.). It will also stay with the overall vision