Develop Rules for the Strategic Plannning Process

By Erica Olsen

Develop Rules for the Strategic Plannning Process

In my work, clients often ask for a tried and true method to evaluate all the strategic choices that are in front of them. Unfortunately, in my experience, I haven’t found such a fail-safe method. What does work is establishing a set of parameters or rules that are specific and unique to your operating environment. Use these rules to judge any and all strategic choices that come up.

Clearly in the strategic planning process, you seek out options and choices. But such decisions occur regularly outside of strategic planning. By establishing a set of rules, you can quickly evaluate whether an opportunity is really an opportunity or a distraction. Develop a set of rules and use it as a litmus test. If the opportunity doesn’t pass the test, it’s out.

Here are some categories of rules:

  • Priority rule: With this rule, you prioritize some opportunities over others based on their connection to reaching your vision. Set a rule to require that all opportunities must help you reach your vision.
  • Timing rule: This financial rule helps you prioritize opportunities based on how much money you want to see returned within what time period. Pull in your finance or accounting people to help you establish this one.
  • Boundary rule: This rule says that every opportunity is evaluated based on whether it’s within your mission. Set a rule to require that the opportunity aligns with the organization’s core mission and values.
  • How-to rule: Develop a rule that requires you to sketch out how to implement the opportunity if you took advantage of it before jumping in. If you can’t clearly define an action plan for the opportunity, you know that trying to execute it will go poorly.


One Comment

  1. Shouan Riahi
    Jun 07, 2007 @ 08:34:34

    Dear Ms. Olsen & Mr. Hougland,

    The future is always startling! No matter what we think is going to happen, something else always comes along — a threat that we missed or an unexpected opportunity.

    From having recently read your blog and knowing of your commitment to seeing small businesses and non profit organizations use strategic planning, we know that you are an anticipatory leader concerned about the future of organizations you care about. As the principals of Art of the Future principals, we have years of experience in strategic planning and organization development. We want you to be aware of us and our common interests. Our Structural Dynamics methodology is a unique response to the turbulent nature of the future. Structural Dynamics combines the rigor of cause and effect analysis with the creativity of scenario planning to help clients develop a comprehensive landscape of future possibilities. As a result of using this approach:

    • ”Surprises” are anticipated, considered & rehearsed
    • Opportunities are grasped
    • Threats are diminished

    There is more information on this approach to futures thinking on our website at

    We would very much like you to be aware of this approach to uncertainty by sending you periodic newsletters. We invite you to join our mailing list. Of course, you may unsubscribe at any time if you are not finding the information useful.

    We would also welcome the opportunity to speak to you directly. You can reach Michael at 617 335-9776 or Anika at 617 939-4728 or write to us at

    Best regards,

    Michael Sales & Anika Savage




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