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Strategic Planning Excellence

Every organization (for-profit and not-for-profit) and business unit should have a Strategic Plan

Definition of "strategic plan"

  • A plan is the roadmap to the future success of your organization.

  • Depending on the scope of the organization, or a particular functional area, the length of a plan can vary between 2 pages to 100 pages.


  • An effective plan harnesses limited resources (time, money, materials, equipment and people) and leverages them to gain maximum positive value.  Value can be expressed as profit, influence, change in behavior (social marketing), number of votes, etc.

When to use it

  • Organizations and businesses of all sizes, in all sectors should have some sort of plan.  Organizations and functions may use one or all of the following time horizons for their plans:

    • One-year plan (sometimes called an Operational Plan or Tactical Plan)

    • Mid-range plan, also called a 3-year plan:  one historical year, current year, plus two years into the future

    • Long-range plan, also called a 5-year plan:  two historical years, current year, plus 4 years into the future

    • Research and development (R&D) functions frequently develop plans of 10+ or 15+ years

Qualities and critical success factors of a good plan

  • It takes account of:

    • Mission, vision, values, and purpose of the organization;

    • The overall short- and long-term objectives of success;

    • External factors which are beyond the control of the organization (macro-environment: PESTLE, and micro-environment: industry, market, competitors, customers and other external stakeholders) and, identifies opportunities and threats;

    • Internal factors which are within the scope of control of the organization (lessons learned from past strategies, tactics, and projects; structure, processes, procedures, and policies) and, identifies strengths, weaknesses, and competitive advantage.

  • It is an honest assessment of what it will take to be successful, with an understanding that strategic trade-offs will be necessary

  • The plan is proactive, rather than reactive

  • It is strategic (based on relevant analyses and insights), not just tactical (lists of activities)

  • It encompasses a short-term AND a long-term view

  • It establishes priorities, and also clearly states what the organization will NOT do

  • It considers competitive forces, and potential competitive responses

  • Key stakeholders within the organization, and sometimes from outside the organization, are involved

  • An appropriate amount of time and effort is set aside for planning

  • The strategic planning process must be dynamic and engaging for participants. We recommend using a graphic recorder whenever appropriate. Our flagship Collective Creativity approach also creates a dynamic workshop environment. We select and customize tools from our vast toolbox.

  • The plan is updated regularly, say, once per Quarter, remaining a dynamic, rather than a static document

  • It uses SMART objectives and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators):

    • Specific

    • Measurable

    • Action-oriented

    • Realistic

    • Time-bound

  • Strategies (the number and scope) are realistic and based on analyses and insights

  • Milestones in the Action Plans (tactics) are embedded in the organization’s performance appraisal process

  • When all the above criteria are achieved, the Plan becomes a rallying point for the entire organization.  As individual and group engagement increases, the Plan serves as an effective management tool or filter helping everyone decide what activities to keep doing, start doing or stop doing in support of the Plan.

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