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What is a strategic plan?

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A strategic plan is a formal written document that identifies and describes specific objectives of an organization and how that organization will achieve those objectives.

A strategic plan is not something you write on your own in an afternoon and then share with others. Rather it should involve a series of meetings (depending on the size of the organization) and involve as many people in the organization as possible. Through thoughtful work and discussions, the strategic planning process will focus on where an organization is now, where it is going and how it is going to get there.

Strategic plan or strategic planning process

Many strategic plans contain a slightly varied list, but these are the major components.

1. Mission statement: This describes what the organization does everyday. Although it may seem obvious, some organizations don’t agree on what they do or to whom they provide their product or service. If the direction of the organization changes or products and services change, the mission statement may need to be updated.

2. Vision statement: This describes the direction in which the organization is headed. It answers the question, “to what does the organization aspire?”

3. Values or guiding principles: Core beliefs guide the direction of the organization. They are the principles that define the organization, how it presents itself and the way it interacts with customers, employees, investors and others.

4.  Strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats: From this assessment various internal and external factors impacting the organization are identified. Prioritizing these factors helps to clarify what is most important and on what to focus.

5.  Competition and Competitive advantage: Knowing your competition — the markets and products or services they provide — is the basis for summarizing your competitive advantage. This process may also identify goals for improving your competitive advantage.

6. Objectives: Covering all aspects of your organization, what are the objectives or top initiatives that connect your mission statement to your vision statement?

7. Strategies: Related to objectives, strategies are the key areas that will help you achieve your objectives.

8. Activities: For each strategy, there will be specific activities that will help you accomplish your objectives.

9. Resources: In order to reach your objectives, what financial, staff, equipment or other resources will you need?

10. Measures of success: How will you monitor and measure your success to ensure you are accomplishing your objectives?

Have you been involved in developing a Strategic Plan? What areas were most important or enlightening to you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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