There is no set blueprint for how to structure a strategic plan, but it is good practice to include the following elements:
- A clear statement of your organisation's vision, mission, and the specific changes or outcomes it wants to deliver in the next few years
- An analysis of organisational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT)
- Your organisation’s priorities and key strategic goals. Four to six goals is ideal
- The strategies that will help your organisation make these happen
- An outline of how your organisation will track the progress of the strategic plan, including a workplan, milestones and indicators of success
Developing your organisation’s priorities and key strategic goals is often the most difficult and time-consuming element of the planning process. These goals (sometimes known as “aims”) should be written in a way that provides direction for the organisation and a platform to begin the performance measurement process. Goals and activities are not much use unless you know how well those goals are being met, and whether your strategies are having the desired impact.
Strategic goals are priorities which provide you with direction and purpose.
When developing your strategic plan, remember to stay focused on the critical matters. Strategic plans are about big picture issues that guide your organisation’s work. If you find yourself getting caught up in trivial details, you may find people become frustrated or bored, and the plan is unlikely to be finalised.
Once your plan is written, it should never be cast in stone. It is quite acceptable, and often important, to adjust it if necessary, according to changing conditions and needs. By making the plan a “living” document, you can continually use it to help with ongoing planning processes.
Depending on the size of your organisation, strategic planning can be anything from a fairly simple process to a complex project. However long it takes, ensure that the final document is easy to read and understand. Keep in mind the audience reading your strategic plan and develop a format that will make sense to them. If the plan is too large and complicated, it will not be read or implemented, and the process will not have been useful or worthwhile. Your plan does not necessarily have to be all written down in one document. You might decide to have a collection of short summary documents or create a range of formats for different audiences.
If you have spent time and resources on developing a Strategic Plan that you are proud of, make sure that you have a communication strategy in place so that people read the plan, are inspired and motivated by it. Do not let it gather dust. Use the plan throughout the year to guide your workforce and strengthen your organisation.