The Strategic Planning Process

Strategic Planning generally refers to the systematic process where an organization envisions its future direction by analyzing its current position and then developing a set of goals or objectives and an action plan to achieve them. Strategic Planning models vary greatly depending on the type of organization and the expected results of the planning process. The strength of this process lies in the flexibility of the plan and its ability to act in response to unforeseen factors and new opportunities.

Guidestar has published an article written by Bill Hoffman of Bill Hoffman and Associates, LLC outlining a four-step strategic planning process:

1.       Get input from major stakeholders. Try to be as inclusive as possible in order to get a variety of ideas and recommendations.  The article recommends using the classic SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) to gather information. Recently, there has been a preference by some groups for using a SOAR analysis (strengths, opportunities, aspirations and results). Again this will depend on the type of organization and the expected outcomes.

SWOT Analysis

2.       Uncover themes. There will be some overlap in ideas, so try to blend these into common themes in order to concentrate on the big picture.  Competing themes will arise “…and that’s all right. This is not the time to decide which ideas to follow through on; it’s just to clarify the ideas that have been offered.”

3.        Agree on priorities. Not every idea can be implemented. Keep the focus “narrow enough to be successful.” Limit the plan to four to six focus areas for the next couple of years.

4.       Set measurable goals. This is important as it will allow the organization to track its progress. Keep in mind that the board and staff will have tasks for reaching the goals. Also, be sure to have deadlines for each goal.

This is a simple, yet powerful process that will give an organization’s board, staff and volunteers a sense of ownership and increase their commitment since they have been involved throughout the entire process.

Try it out!