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Blog post by Deb Dietz
n our first Strategic Planning Checklist blog post, “The First Step: Analysis” we reviewed the importance of analysis as the critical first step in the planning process.
In this step, your objectives are to gather, analyze and summarize information, focusing on information relating to the organization’s value proposition, internal factors and external forces likely to impact your short and long-term success. We provided actions steps to take in conducting this review, stating this work is critical before you move into the next phase of the planning process, “Plan Formulation”. Invest your time here before jumping into the following steps which include Action Planning, Execution and Continuous Improvement. Those checklist steps will follow in subsequent blog posts.
Armed with the insights from your analysis, you are now ready to create your organization’s mission and vision statements, verify your organizations ‘sweet spot’, establish goal statements, and identify and prioritize the means by which your organization will realize short and long-term success.
What is your overarching intent as an organization? What threats and opportunities exist that your organization needs to address? What services does your organization provide or what products does your organization produce? How do you define your value proposition to your customers? What customer needs do you need to fulfill? How will you be perceived by your customers, your community, and those you do business with?
What is your vision of the future? Certainly you want to drive growth for your organization – but how do you provide focus and direction? You need to describe the function and focus on the future organization. What opportunities will you address? Which threats will you overcome? How will you ensure your employees understand their role in the future organization? How will you help customers understand the view of your future organization?
Organizational Values and Principles
In our work with clients, we often notice the lack of dialogue surrounding organizational values. Articulating the organization’s mission and vision, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats seem simple in comparison. But organizational values, and principles, drive the culture of the organization, ensuring you are doing the ‘right thing for the right reasons’ when making decisions and taking actions. Some organizations we’ve worked with have provided their employees with business cards, stating the organization’s mission, vision and values on the back of their business cards. It’s a constant reminder that what you do in your daily work is driven by purpose and is shared with customers and partners.
Where do your capabilities, purpose and passion overlap? That’s your sweet spot. Your planning process must include dialogue regarding these topics so that you are able to achieve your mission and drive your organization toward your desired future state.
Of critical importance in setting organizational goals is to be able to articulate what your organization aims to do to achieve your short and long-term goals, but also to ensure how each employee/team member contributes to these goals. It’s a way of making your strategic plan personal to your employees. As consultants, we often hear from employees that they come in to work every day and do their jobs, but they don’t have a good understanding of how their jobs, the work they do on a daily basis, contributes overall to the financial health and growth of the organization. Employees want and need a sense of purpose. We find that organizations that align objectives, initiatives, targets and measures directly to employees, through the performance management process, help drive employee commitment, accountability, satisfaction and retention.
A critical outcome in any strategic planning process is the identification and prioritizing of action steps – what will you do, when you will do it, how will you do it, and who is responsible and accountable for doing it. Setting priorities involves the review of five factors:
Once your planning team has prioritized your objectives from “most” to “least” important, you can then determine your ability to fund and activate the initiatives. Those that are most important get funded and activated, while those that fall further down the priority list get “backlogged”. During the course of the year, when one initiative is completed, the next priority of the list gets activated.
We’ve now covered two steps in the Strategic Planning Checklist - The First Step: Analysis and The Second Step: Plan Formulation. When you begin next year’s planning cycle, you will begin by once again gathering the necessary data and information and going through the first step/analysis. The process becomes “evergreen”, beginning with analysis every year, and reviewing the priorities that have yet to be activated to determine if those objectives and initiatives are still relevant to the organization fulfilling its mission and positioning itself for the future.
For those of you who are already well on the way to developing your strategic plan and operating budget, I encourage you to take a step back and pause, reflecting on these checklists.