Strategic Planning

A vision statement is the image or state to which an organization aspires. It emphasizes the dream of where the association will be at a specific time, usually in three or more years. The values governing the operation of the business and its conduct or relationships with society at large, customers, suppliers, employees, the local community and other stakeholders is the first step in developing a strategic plan.

The next step is to set goals that the organization must achieve. Goals are general statements about what the organization should accomplish to meet its mission and to address major issues facing the organization. The goals should be set for three or five years as well. After setting its goals, the organization should identify specific strategies that must be implemented to reach each goal. Small organizations usually do not identify strategies.

After deciding on the strategies, organizations should draft action plans to implement each of them. These are the specific activities that each major department must undertake to ensure the achievement of goals.

Issue-based plans are most often prepared and implemented by organizations with limited resources and existing major issues. To prepare such a plan an organization should first draft a list of major issues and then brainstorm ideas for each of them. Usually these plans are short-term, for nine or 12 months.

The alignment model is creating a mission that is in line with the resources of an organization. Scenario planning could be combined with other models. It may be useful in identifying strategic issues and goals.

Organization and management sciences today are focusing their attention on naturalistic approaches to development. One of the most prominent approaches is called "self-organizing" systems or organic models of strategic planning. These are systems that develop primarily according to certain values, rather than according to specific procedures.

Biological systems (people, plants, animals) are examples of self-organizing systems. They might grow in any variety of ways, which are rarely sequential in nature. However, these biological systems always develop according to certain key principles or values, such as propagation of their species and self-preservation.

In the organic approach to strategic planning the first step is to define stakeholders' vision and values and then each person can establish an individual plan. Each individual reports results of their actions to the whole group or organization together with updates for the vision and values.

Some strategic plans include only top-level information and no action plans.

One of the most useful tools for strategic planning is the SWOT analysis. The main objective of this tool is to analyze internal strategic factors, strengths and weaknesses attributed to the organization, and external factors beyond control of the organization, opportunities and threats. Another popular tool is the Balanced Scorecards, which creates a systematic framework for strategic planning.

Some organizations hire external experts to help with the draft of a strategic plan - consultants who provide advising and expertise. These consultants sometimes do evaluation of the organization to assess its strong and weak sides.

Strategic Planning: Selected full-text books and articles

The Learning Organization and Strategic Change By Rowden, Robert W SAM Advanced Management Journal, Vol. 66, No. 3, Summer 2001
Technology at the Top: Developing Strategic Planning Support Systems By Townsend, Anthony M.; DeMarie, Samuel M.; Hendrickson, Anthony R.; Whitman, Michael E SAM Advanced Management Journal, Vol. 65, No. 1, Winter 2000
Effective Strategic Planning. (Lefty's Corner) By Lefkowith, Dave "Lefty" Management Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 1, Spring 2001
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