Overview of the Strategic Planning Process

By Erica Olsen

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Overview of the Strategic Planning Process

See the full strategic planning process illustrated in less than five minutes. Understand the importance of defining your direction, setting up an effective strategic plan that can be communicated to your staff so everyone knows what the priorities are. With everyone pulling in the same direction, momentum is easy to achieve.

For more resources on building your strategic plan, view our Essentials Guide to Strategic Planning.

Video Transcript

Hi, my name’s Erica Olsen. Today’s whiteboard video is an overview of the strategic planning process. Instead of going through a bullet-pointed list, we’ll do it in the form of an illustration. To orient ourselves, I want to outline the four phases of the process over here: Assess, Design, Build and Manage. The phases of planning are assess, designing and building, and we spend a couple of months per year doing that. We spend the rest of the year managing the performance and the execution of our plan. Oftentimes, we get into execution and we’re not exactly realizing the results that we want, in which case we go back in into some parts of the planning process, sort of rinse and repeat. Today’s video is going through the whole process, but sometimes you just may pick pieces of it. So let’s jump in.

Great strategic plans start with understanding where we are today, assessing the current state. Point A. We do that by gathering external perspective, opportunities and threats. And internal perspective, strengths and weaknesses. And we summarize all that information into a SWOT analysis. And as a little asterisk, we have detailed whiteboard videos on each point today, so if you need to dig deeper, check those out.

So once we’re clear about where we are today, we can move into the second part of our process, which is designing the strategy, starting with our mission statement. Our mission statement is a square here because great mission statements tell us what’s in and what’s out. Why do we exist as an organization? What’s our core purpose? And then by default, what’s not? With clarity on our mission, we can move to casting our vision or our future state. Strategic plans are all about moving organizations from where we are today to where we want to be in the future and that’s what our vision statement does for us. It tells us where we want to go.

The rest of our plan builds a road map from today to tomorrow, starting with a couple of things that help us answer “how will we succeed?”. Our competitive advantages and our long-term organization-wide strategies. These come in different names, but let’s just use the analogy and the visual to keep us grounded. These help guide, they act as an umbrella over our entire plan to make sure that we’re building a plan that we can succeed and be successful and be competitive with.

With that guideline in place, we can move to building our framework. Our long-term strategic objectives are our framework. Again, there are different names for this. Let’s just use that for today. I like to see them in four categories because we want a holistic framework. We want to make sure that our plan covers our financial perspective, our customer perspective, our operational and internal perspective, and our people perspective. Less than six is a pretty good idea when you’re looking at your framework because we’re gonna cascade the rest of the plan from these.

From there, we’re ready to move into the next phase, which is building our plan. That looks like starting with our goals, our corporate goals. And we’re using the word “goals” to articulate quantifiable, outcome-based statements. Where do you want to be in year one? In year two? In year three? And most of the time, we use key performance indicators to help guide us along the way. So we like our corporate goals…and again we’re gonna cascade from our strategic objectives…we like our corporate goals to be SMART. SMART’s a great acronym to make sure you have good, quantifiable, outcome-based goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound.

Once we have our corporate goals in place, a couple per each long-term strategic objective, we’re ready to move into annual operating plans and that looks like building goals and cascading into each level of the organization. So that looks like corporate goals being cascaded into department goals and department goals being cascaded into individual contributor goals. Once we’ve cascaded it down that far, we have a plan and we’re done with the third phase.

So now we have a plan, now what? We want to move into managing execution because nobody wants to build a plan that sits on a shelf. So there are three things you have to have in place to effectively execute. Number one, people. You need to make sure that every person in your organization has an individual action plan that expresses ownership and accountability for what they need to get done by when. And with that, that matters because all the rest of this, it’s just on paper if we’re not clear about that, that very specific piece.

The second thing is we need to make sure that we have a system in place to track and manage performance. A software system, spreadsheets, whatever it looks like, you’re gonna gather a lot of data on a monthly or a quarterly, an annual basis, you need a place to put that and everybody needs to be working on the same system.

The third thing is process. You need to schedule at least monthly or quarterly reviews of your performance because without that review, all the rest of this is just again good ideas on paper.

With that, that’s an overview of the strategic planning process. Subscribe to our channel. Happy strategizing.


Erica Olsen

Erica Olsen is the COO and a co-founder of OnStrategy. She has developed the format and the user interface for the award-winning OnStrategy on-line strategic management system. In addition, she is the author of Strategic Planning Kit for Dummies, 2nd Edition. Erica has developed and reviewed hundreds of strategic plans for public and private entities across the country and around the world. She is a lecturer at University of Nevada Reno and University of Phoenix. She holds a BA in Communications and an MBA in International Management.
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