Stephen R. Covey once said that “All things are created twice; first mentally; then physically. The key to creativity is to begin with the end in mind, with a vision and a blueprint of the desired outcome.” Elaborating on this notion, two key elements shine at the core of this thought, vision and planning. Vision is a crucial element which, like a beacon, illuminates the path towards a desired destination and a blue print guides one along each and every step of the journey. The above description, other than defining the key to creativity, eloquently summarizes the essence of strategic planning.
But what is strategic planning?
Strategic planning is a crucial process within an organization, company or enterprise and is critical for defining its strategy and direction. A strategic plan is an outline of an organization’s purpose and goals and the methods employed to accomplish them. As such, strategic planning aligns stakeholders around strategic priorities and clearly communicates organizational goals and strategies. This dynamic process enhances stakeholder engagement and contributes greatly to aligning the overall mission with the programs and capacity of an organization. It is one of the must have skills to have in every project manager’s toolkit.
How to write a strategic plan
In order to write a strategic plan, three essential questions need to be answered: where does the organization stand now, where does it want to be and how is it going to get there. As a strategic plan is a document that defines the direction of a company, it is essential to figure out the response to these simple questions.
Here’s how to do that through a strategic plan:
- Reflect on the foundation elements of the organization and try to detect any shifts from its initial values and mission in comparison to the company’s current position. Consider any changes to internal or external operations and determine any required alterations.
- Configure a clear mission statement, while keeping in mind that it needs to be adaptive in order to survive changes or unforeseen conditions. Write a summary of your organization’s purpose and vision that will subsequently dictate its goals and serve as a means of measuring success and failure.
- Evaluate the current situation. Perform a SWOT analysis to assess your strategic position. First detect your strengths and weaknesses, in order to develop a strategic plan that highlights positive factors and minimizes deficiencies. During this process identify any opportunities for growth and the means for exploiting this potential. Spot the threats, address them and respond by planning a viable strategy.
- Record all factors necessary for achieving success. To this end, include all areas of interest, such as financial goals, operational methods, customer relations and organization resources.
- The next step, is to figure out how to employ these key factors and plan effective actions. Develop a strategy that matches the organization’s strengths with the possible opportunities and key factors stated above. Create a plan outlining the necessary steps that need to be performed within a timeframe, assigning these tasks to the responsible parties within the organization.
- Develop short term goals and plan action items. Short term goals reflect your strategic objectives and turns these into feasible and clear performance targets. Make sure that each goal is specific, measurable and realistic. Develop a set of action items that will help to implement the short-term goals.
- Prioritize goals according to viability and growth. Create a sequence of goals in the form of a chronological plan in order of importance.
Knowing the answer to the question, “What is strategic planning?” and how to write a strategic plan is one of the most important and critical abilities a project manager can have. Strategic planning is a critical process that contributes greatly to the success of an organization, as it outlines the future direction of an organization, prioritizes goals and assesses impact. It is very helpful for communicating goals, strategies and programs while engaging, motivating and retaining external partners and internal stakeholders.