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Free Online Course: Developing Your Strategic Plan

24 November 2009 No Comment

Free Online Course: Developing Your Strategic Plan

Written by Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Copyright 1997-2008.
Adapted from the Field Guide to Nonprofit Strategic Planning and Facilitation.

(This module is in the organization development program. However, this module can also be used by anyone as a self-study exercise to learn more about strategic planning and writing a strategic plan.)

Introduction

Very simply put, strategic planning identifies where the organization wants to be at some point in the future and how it is going to get there. The “strategic” part of this planning process is the continual attention to current changes in the organization and its external environment, and how this effects the future of the organization. Skills in strategic planning are critical to the long-term success of your organization. This form of planning includes:
a) Taking a wide look around at what’s going on outside the organization and how it might effect the organization (an environmental scan)
b) Taking a hard look at what’s going on inside the organization, including its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (a SWOT analysis)
c) Establishing statements of mission, vision and values
d) Establishing goals to accomplish over the next (usually) three years or so, as a result of what’s going on inside and outside the organization
e) Identifying how those goals will be reached (strategies, objectives, responsibilities and timelines)

Strategic planning determines the overall direction and goals of the organization. Consequently, strategic planning influences numerous aspects of the organization, including what:
a) Products and services will be provided by the business and how those products and services will be designed
b) Organizational design and roles are needed by the organization
c) Performance goals are established for positions throughout the business
d) Board committees should be developed (in the case of corporations)
e) Resources are needed to reach those goals, and consequently, how much money is needed to procure those resources — ultimately, the goals determine the content of various budgets

Two key points to remember while proceeding through this module:
1) The planning process is at least as important as the planning document itself.
2) The planning process is never “done” — the planning process is a continuous cycles that’s part of the management process itself.

NOTE ABOUT BOARD COMMITTEES: Consider establishing a Board Planning Committee (in the case of corporations) to review and help guide implementation the information in this learning module. The Planning Committee might be comprised of chairs from other board committees. Major activities and goals from this learning module could be incorporated in that Committee’s Committee Work Plan. This module includes additional recommendations for membership of the group of planners.

NOTE ABOUT OCCASIONAL REFERENCES TO NONPROFIT MATERIALS: Various links below refer to nonprofit strategic planning — this is little difference between strategic planning in for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Consequently, all of the materials referenced below can be useful to understand strategic planning in for-profit organizations. See “First, a Point About For-Profit and Nonprofit Strategic Planning” at Recommended Approach to Understanding Strategic Planning.)


Materials to Review

  • The following materials will help you address each of the topics and learning activities in this module.
  • NOTE: Each of the following links is to a one- to two-page overview. Read all of the following documents referenced by the following links.

Introduction to Basics of Planning (general to most planning processes)

Read all of the document referenced by the following topic.
General Planning Process (basic elements of planning process)

Introduction to Strategic Planning

Read all of the documents referenced by the following topics.
Benefits of Strategic Planning
Basic Description of Strategic Planning
When Should Strategic Planning Be Done?
Basic Overview of Various Strategic Planning Models

Preparation for Strategic Planning

Read all of the documents referenced by the following topics.
Need Consultant or Facilitator to Help You With Planning?
Who Should Be Involved in Planning?
How Many Planning Meetings Will We Need?
How Do We Ensure Implementation of Our New Plan?

Conducting Strategic Planning

Read all of the documents referenced by the following topics.
Basics of Developing Mission, Vision and Values Statements
Basics of Identifying Strategic Issues and Goals
Basics of Action Planning (as part of strategic planning)
Writing and Communicating the Plan
Basics of Monitoring, Evaluating and Deviating from Plan


Suggested Topics for Reflection and Discussion

  • Learners are strongly encouraged to discuss the following questions with peers, board members, management and employees, as appropriate.
  • There are a variety of views and approaches regarding strategic planning. There is no one “perfect” approach for all situations. Therefore, the reader is exposed to a variety of perspectives in the materials that are referenced from the items below.

Introduction to Strategic Planning

  1. What is the overall purpose of strategic planning? (See Benefits of Strategic Planning, What is Strategic Planning? (go to Strategic Planning) and Getting a Feel for Strategic Planning.)
  2. What’s the difference between strategic planning and long-range planning? (See What are The Key Concepts and Definitions in Strategic Planning? (go to Strategic Planning))

Preparation for Strategic Planning

  1. What are some preparations to make before conducting strategic planning? (See What Do I Need to Know Before I Start the Planning Process? (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down) and How Do I Use Retreats in the Planning Process? (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down))
  2. What are some basic considerations when deciding if you need to use an outside facilitator or not? (See Should I Use an External Consultant?) (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down) and Need Consultant or Facilitator to Help You With Planning?
  3. A major complaint about strategic planning is that the plan document ends up collecting dust on a shelf. What are some considerations to ensure that plan is actually implemented? (See How Do We Increase the Chance of Our Plan Being Implemented? (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down) )
  4. Who should be involved in strategic planning? (See What Are the Individual Roles in Strategic Planning? (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down))

Conducting Strategic Planning

  1. What are the basic steps in the strategic planning process? (See What Are the Basic Steps in the Strategic Planning Process? (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down), Basic Description of Strategic Planning and Basic Overview of Various Strategic Planning Models
  2. What is a vision statement? (See What is a Vision Statement? (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down))
  3. What is a mission statement? (See What is a Mission Statement? (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down))
  4. What is a values statement? (See Basics in Developing a Values Statement.)
  5. What is a situational assessment? (See What is a Situational Assessment? (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down),Environmental Scan (taking a wide look around) and Looking at Organization’s Strength’s, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT)
  6. What is a strategy? (See What is a Strategy? (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down))
  7. What is an annual operating plan? (See How Do You Develop an Annual Operating Plan? (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down))
  8. What should a strategic plan document include? (See What Should a Strategic Plan Include? (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down) and Basics of Writing and Communicating the Plan.)
  9. What’s involved in writing and communicating the strategic plan? (See Writing and Communicating the Plan.)
  10. How is a strategic plan evaluated? What if we end up changing our plan? (See Basics of Monitoring, Evaluating and Deviating from Plan.)

Organizational Systems and Practices Driven by Strategic Goals

In the Introduction section of this learning module, you read about numerous aspects (5) of the organization that were directly influenced by the results of strategic planning. Name as many of these items as you can and then compare your answers to those listed in the Introduction section of this module.


Activities to Build Systems and Practices

  • Learners are strongly encouraged to complete the following activities, and share and discuss results with peers, board members, management and employees, as appropriate.
  • You can write a draft of your own strategic plan by filling in the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document as you proceed through the activities listed below.
  • Learners are strongly encouraged to use a team of planners to complete the strategic plan. The following information references advice and guidelines for forming this team.
  • As you proceed through the following activities, be sure to note any incomplete actions in the Action Item Planning List.

Questions for Organizations That Have Already Done Strategic Planning

Identify any issues in your current approach to strategic planning and address the issues before you begin your next round of strategic planning. Consider the following questions. Is your strategic plan being implemented? If not, why not? Was your board (in the case of corporations) sufficiently involved in strategic planning? If not, why not? Write a one-page description of the issues you see with your planning process, how it can be improved and who must do what to improve it. Discuss this description in an upcoming board meeting for feedback and to write an action plan to address the issues. (The following link may help you in your considerations. See How Do We Increase the Chance of Our Plan Being Implemented?)

Preparation (for Organizations That Have Not Yet Done Strategic Planning)

  1. Address any hesitations that planners might have before you start planning. Do you have any reservations or hesitations about the value of strategic planning? If you do not want to pursue the strategic planning process as it is described in this module, then how will you (the board, chief executive and other employees) decide what your organization will be doing over the next few years and how it will do it? (Many banks/funders, prospective board members and chief executives will want to see some form of a strategic plan document. Consider this in your decision about how your organization will do strategic planning.) (The following links may help you in your considerations and preparation. NOTE: They refer to nonprofits, but apply to for-profits, as well. See Benefits of Strategic Planning and What Do I Need to Know Before I Start the Planning Process? (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down).
  2. Who should be involved in the planning? Consider who is responsible for the direction of your organization, who will be responsible for carrying out all or portions of your plan and people who will be effected by implementation of your plan. Then decide who will be involved in your planning. (The following links may help you in your considerations. They refer to nonprofits, but apply to for-profits, as well. See What Are the Individual Roles in Strategic Planning? (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down))
  3. How many meetings might you plan for your strategic planning process? (The following links may help you in your considerations. They refer to nonprofits, but apply to for-profits, as well. See How Many Planning Meetings Will We Need? and How Do I Use Retreats the Planning Process? (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down))
  4. Might you need a consultant to help your through the process for the first time? (The following link may help you in your considerations. They refer to nonprofits, but apply to for-profits, as well. See Should I Use an External Consultant? (go to Strategic Planning and scroll down) and Using Consultants.)

Developing Your Basic Strategic Plan

1.      Write Your Mission Statement

In the section labeled “Mission Statement” in the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document, write a concise description of the purpose of your organization. Answer the question: “Why does our organization exist?” When answering this question, include the nature of your products and the groups of customer who buy your products. The mission statement should provide continued direction and focus to your plans and operation in your organization. (For additional assistance, see Writing Mission Statements.)

2.      Write Your Vision Statement

In the section labeled “Vision Statement” in the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document, write your vision statement. Answer the question “What do you hope for your organization and customers?” Ideally, it should be written in a compelling, inspirational fashion. (For additional assistance, see Writing Vision Statements.)

3.      Write Your Values Statement

In the section labeled “Values Statement” in the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document, write down the important values from which you want your organization to operate. The values statement depicts the priorities in how the organization carries out activities with stakeholders. (For additional assistance, see Writing Values Statements.)

4.      Conduct an External Analysis

In Appendix C of the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document, write down your thoughts from an external analysis. An external analysis looks at societal, technological, political, and economic trends effecting the organization, e.g., trends in the economy, recent or pending legislation, demographic trends, rate of access to trained labor, and competition. In your external analysis, don’t forget to look at stakeholders’ impressions of the organization, including bankers’, customers’, community leaders’, etc. (For additional assistance, see Environmental Scan (taking a wide look around).)

5.      Conduct an Internal Analysis (SWOT)

In Appendix C of the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document, write down your thoughts from your internal analysis. Write down the major strengths and weaknesses of your organization. Write down the major threats and opportunities regarding your organization. Consider trends effecting the organization, e.g., strength of sales, reputation of the organization, expertise of employees, facilities, strength of finances, strength of administrative offices and operations, etc. (For additional assistance, see Looking at Organization’s Strength’s, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT).)

6.      Identify Strategic Issues

In Appendix C of the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document, write down the major immediate and near-term issues that your organization must address. New organizations, in particular, are often better off to first look at the major obstacles or issues that if faces, and next identify the more forward-looking, developmental goals to accomplish over the next few years. For example, current issues might be that sales are dropping, there is no research and development to generate new products, employee turnover rate is too high, etc. Developmental goals for a new organization might be, for example, build a board, do a strategic plan, do a market analysis to build a new product, hire employees, etc. (The following links may be useful at this point when identifying issues: Life Cycles of Organizations.)

To identify the key issues identified from your strategic analyses, consider the following guidelines:
a) From considering the effects of weaknesses and threats that you identified, what are the major issues that you see? List as many as you can. Consider issues over the term of your strategic plan, but look very closely at the next year especially. Many organizations have stumbled badly because they ended up “falling over their feet” while being focused much too far down the road.
b) Consider each of issues. Ask whether it’s “important” or “urgent.” Often, issues seem very important when they’re only urgent, for example, changing a flat tire is an urgent issue — but you’d never put “changing a tire” in your strategic plan. Attend only to the important issues and not the urgent issues.
c) Deal with issues that you can do something about. Issues that are too narrow do not warrant planning and issues that are too broad will bog you down.
d) Issues should be clearly articulated so that someone from outside of the organization can read the description and understand the nature of the issue.

7.      Establish Strategic Goals

In the section labeled “Goals and Strategies” in the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document, write down the strategic goals to address the above-identified issues and the more forward-looking, developmental goals. Consider goals over the term of your strategic plan, but look very closely at the next year especially. Design and word your goals to be “SMARTER”, that is, specific, measurable, acceptable to the people working to achieve the goals, realistic, timely, extending the capabilities of those working to achieve the goals and rewarding to them. Don’t worry so much about having to specify goals to be exactly “correct”. Carefully consider whether the goals and strategies are closely aligned with your mission, vision and values.

As noted above, if you are developing a new organization, then you’ll probably have goals to build a board, do a strategic plan, do a market analysis to build a product, hire employees, etc. You’ll probably have organization-wide goals (for example, goals in regard to building and running your organization, for example, board development, staffing, getting a new building, etc) and product-specific goals (goals that are directly in regard to providing products or services to your customers). More on this later in the Module 7: Marketing Your Products (For additional assistance, see Strategizing.)

8.      Establish Strategies to Reach Goals

In the section labeled “Goals and Strategies” in the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document, write down the general approaches needed to reach the goals — over the next year especially. Consider strategies over the term of the strategic plan, but especially over the next year. Carefully consider whether the goals and strategies are closely aligned with your mission, vision and values. Note that these strategies may become overall action plans for developing programs. More on this later in the Module 7: Marketing Your Products. (For additional assistance, see Strategizing.)

9.      Develop Staffing Plan

In Appendix E of the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document, write a rough draft of a staffing plan. To do this, reference each of the strategies to reach the goals and consider what kind of capabilities are needed to implement the strategies. This might seem like a lot of guesswork, particularly if you don’t have experience in supervision. However, don’t worry so much about being exactly correct — you will likely refine your staffing plan later on as you design and plan your products. If you are developing a new organization, you might think about including the following typical roles in your initial staffing plan (but again, consider these roles in terms of implementing the strategies in your plan): chief executive, administrative assistant and product managers for each of your major product goals. (The following link may help you when developing your staffing plan. See Organizing Staff.)

10. Conduct Action Planning (objectives, responsibilities and timelines)

In Appendix A of the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document, for each strategy, write down the objectives that must be achieved while implementing the strategy, when the objective should be completed and by whom — especially over the next year. As you identify who will accomplish each of the objectives, you might end up refining your staffing plan. (For additional assistance, see Action Planning.)

11. Develop an Operating Budget for Each Year in the Plan

In the table labeled “Your Budget Planning” in Appendix F of the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document, list the resources you will need to achieve the goals in the strategic plan and what it will cost to obtain and use the resources. You don’t have to be exactly accurate — besides, you may end up changing your budget as you give more attention to product design and planning in the next learning module. You should do a budget for each of the years included in the span of time covered by your strategic plan — but give particular attention to the first year of the time span.

Look at each of your product-related goals. Think about how much revenue the product might generate. Next, think about the expenses to produce, sell and support the product, such as human resources, facilities, equipment, special materials, marketing and promotions, etc. (Note that this budget planning often provides strong input to the overall budget. We’ll likely convert your operating budget to a set of program budgets. More on this later in the Module 7: Designing and Marketing Your Products.)

12. Associate Strategic Goals to Performance Goals for Board and Chief Executive

In Appendix D of the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document, write down which board committees (in the case of corporations) will be addressing which strategic goals. The chief executive should be attending to responsibilities and goals that are directly aligned with the strategic goals of the organization (as should the responsibilities and goals of everyone else in the organization). Therefore, after strategic goals have been identified, it’s timely for the board to update the performance goals of the chief executive (who, in turn, updates the performance goals of everyone else in the management and staff of the organization). (For additional information, see Performance Management, Board of Director’s Evaluation of Chief Executive and Employee Performance Management.)

13. Specify How Implementation of Plan Will Be Monitored and Evaluated

In Appendix H of the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document, write down how the status of implementation will be monitored and evaluated. Consider, for example, weekly written status reports to the chief executive from employees, and monthly written reports to board members. Status will address whether goals and objectives are being met or not, current issues and any resource needed to implement the plan. (For additional assistance, see Monitoring, Evaluating and Deviating from Plan.)

14. Specify How Plan Will Be Communicated

In Appendix I of the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document, write down how the plan will be communicated. Consider distributing all (or highlights from) the plan to everyone in the organization. Post your mission on the walls of your main offices. Consider giving each employee a card with the mission statement on it. Publish portions of your plan in your regular newsletter. (For additional assistance, see Writing and Communicating the Plan.)

15. Complete Rest of Strategic Plan Document

To complete your strategic plan document, update the following sections of the Framework for a Basic Strategic Plan Document:
a) Complete the section labeled “Executive Summary” (guidelines are provided in the framework)
b) Gain authorization from your board (in the case of corporations) (they should sign in the section labeled “Board Authorization of Strategic Plan”)
c) In the body of the plan in the section titled “Organizational Information”, include descriptions, for example, of the history of the organization, its major products and services, highlights and accomplishments during the history of the organization, etc.
d) In Appendix B, provide description of the process you used to develop the strategic plan, including what worked and what didn’t. This information will be useful to planners when they next do strategic planning.

16. Acknowledge What You’ve Done — Congratulations!


Reminders for Those in the Online Development Program

Reminders About You

  1. Are you using your skills learned in previous modules? For example, as you using methodical approaches to problem solving and decision making? Are you using strong practices of meeting management? Are you communicating key information to others throughout your organization?
  2. Are you discussing topics and materials with peers, board members and others, as appropriate? Discussion and ongoing feedback are some of the best methods to really learn new information and materials.
  3. Are you helping others to hold you accountable to your times that you committed to reading and study in this program?

Reminders About Your Organization

  1. The results of your strategic plan should produce updates to a variety of aspects in your organization. Consider:
    a) Are your products and services directly aligned with your new strategic planning goals and strategies
    b) Should any job descriptions and performance goals be updated for personnel in your organization?
    c) Should your board committees be re-organized to be more aligned to contribute toward achieving your new strategic goals?
  2. How are you ensuring that your whole board understands and contributes to achieving your strategic goals?

Tracking Open Action Items

  1. One of the first indicators that an organization is struggling is that open action items are not tracked and reviewed. (Open action items are required actions that have not yet been completed.) Instead, organization members only see and react to the latest “fires in the workplace”. Whether open action items are critical to address now or not, they should not entirely be forgotten. Therefore, update and regularly review a list of open action items that includes listing each open action item, who is responsible to complete it, when it should be completed and any associated comments. When updating the list, consider action items as identified during discussions, learning activities and assessments in this module. Share and regularly review this action item list with the appropriate board, management and employees in your organization. You can use the following Action Item Planning List.
  2. If you have questions, consider posing them in the national online discussion groups HRNET or ODNET which are attended by many human resource and organization development experts.

(Source from Management Help Organization)

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