Management is adapting to change. Planning aids the task of management; adapting to change. Strategic planning is the process of defining the organization's mission, vision, and values. Together, they provide an outline to guide the organization. The mission gives day-to-day relevance for the organization. The vision inspires beyond what may seem possible. And, the core values bind together the members of the organization by defining values that all hold dear.
A quick internet search for "strategic planning" yields many books and articles describing how to do strategic planning. A plan is intentional; a method of doing something that is worked out in detail before it is begun. A plan is a detailed list of steps to be done. A plan starts with a vision, or mission statement, of what is to be accomplished. A plan forces you to clarify your goals and how much money (time) you are willing to commit. A plan determines how you will allocate your time. Time is money and it is the most important asset you can invest. A plan helps you make a wise investment.
Good strategic planning always grounds vision in mission. Both emerge from core values. Visions, like dreams, will change as they are fulfilled. Missions occasionally change to meet new challenges. Core values rarely change. Mission, vision, and values are necessary to determine goals and objectives that come and go over time.
The goal of any vision process is to arrive at a shared vision, one that stake-holders have worked together to create. Individuals define a picture of future success and their roles in it. When built on inclusiveness, shared responsibility, and accountability, the fulfillment of that future vision becomes the dream of the organization as a whole and of every member individually. A strategic plan provides the framework to guide the organization as the future conditions change and can be developed with five fundamental steps.
Step One - Develop the Work Plan. Basically, while a number of issues must be addressed in assessing readiness, the determination to create a strategic plan comes down to whether an organization's leaders are truly committed to the effort, and whether they are able to devote the necessary attention to the "big picture".
This involves five tasks to pave the way for an organized process: 1) identify specific issues or choices that the planning process should address; 2) clarify roles (who does what in the process); 3) create a Planning Committee; 4) develop an organizational profile; and 5) identify the information that must be collected to help make sound decisions.
Step Two - Determine the Mission and Vision. A mission statement is the introduction to your organization. It describes your purpose and focus for being an organization. A mission statement typically describes an organization in terms of:
* Purpose - why the organization exists, and what it seeks to accomplish
* Business - the main method or activity through which the organization tries it fulfill this purpose
* Values - the principles or beliefs that guide an organization's members as they pursue the organization's purpose
While the mission statement summarizes the what, how, and why of the organization, the vision statement presents an image of what the expected accomplishment will look like. It is the vision of the future. Together, the mission and vision statements of an organization are an important step towards creating a shared, coherent idea of what the organization is strategically planning to accomplish.
Step Three - Assessment. The mission and vision are a commitment as to why the organization exists and what it does. Once an organization has committed to why it exists and what it does, it must make a clear assessment of its current situation. The primary element of strategic planning, thinking, and management is an awareness of resources available and the resources necessary to accomplish its mission and vision. Knowing where you are and and what you need is key in successfully responding to changes.
The 'assessment' means obtaining current information about the organization's strengths, weaknesses, and performance that will highlight the critical issues that the organization faces. These are the issues the strategic plan must address. The issues include a variety of concerns, such as funding issues, new program opportunities, changing regulations or changing needs in the customer population. The point is to choose the most important issues to address, generally no more than five to ten critical issues around which to develop the strategic plan.
The assessment should develop a data base of quality information that can be used to make decisions; and a list of critical issues which demand a response from the organization - the most important issues the organization needs to deal with.
Step Four - Developing Strategies, Goals, and Objectives. Once the organization mission has been defined and its critical issues identified, it is time to determine what to do about them in terms of a broad approach to be taken (strategies), and the general and specific results to be sought (the goals and objectives). Strategies, goals, and objectives may come from individual knowledge, group discussion, or formal decision-making techniques. The bottom line is that leadership agrees on the issues, priorities, and steps to address the critical issues.
These are a flexible outline of the organization's strategic directions - the general strategies, long-range goals, and specific objectives of its response to critical issues. They determine how the organization will achieve its mission. As the goals and objectives are 'strategic', they can be modified as the situation changes based on new information or changes in priority.
Step Five - The Strategic Plan
The mission and vision have been defined. The critical issues have been identified. The goals, objectives, and strategies have been agreed upon. Together, these are the elements of the strategic plan. From this plan, operation plans, or detailed action plans, are developed for accomplishing the goals.
As the goals and objectives have been identified, it is easy for leadership to review the actions and determine if changes are needed as question arise or issues change.
The final product is a strategic plan; an outline of who, what, where, when, why, and how and organization will accomplish its defined mission and stated vision. The goals and objectives provide a means to measure success or make necessary changes 'strategic' adjustments to the plan.
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